What is Respite Care?
It’s reported that there are more than seven million caregivers caring for someone in the UK. Yet the mention of respite care for the elderly can often be met with negativity – a feeling perhaps that the carer isn’t doing a good enough job or they don’t want the responsibility. However, the truth is that caring for somebody, especially someone close to you such as an elderly relative, can be both physically and emotionally draining.
Respite care is an exceptionally important part of modern day society. People caring for an elderly parent or family member will often do so whilst similarly exhausted from juggling a day job, home chores and a busy lifestyle.
It is easy for caregivers to lose a part of themselves when they take on the caregiving role. However, they need to maintain their identity. Respite care offers a short rest period for the carer, allowing them to come back feeling rejuvenated and ready to handle the pressures of their everyday life.
As the number of family caregivers continues to increase across the country, the number of people who are exhausted, depressed and overwhelmed has also increased. These symptoms are often directly related to the level and amount of care they provide for their elderly loved ones. This is one of the reasons why respite care for the elderly is in demand.
A caregiver’s need for relaxation and renewal is the main reason why caregivers opt for such a service. It gives them the opportunity to retain some of their own lives, whether respite is for the day, a week or month, it allows the caregiver to complete targets and goals which may have felt completely unachievable whilst they are in their caring role.
Caregivers dedicate the majority of their time caring for their loved ones. Therefore, they leave little time to care for their own needs. When the loved one’s condition worsens due to dementia or other chronic health condition, the caregiver becomes even more involved in caring for this person and takes less time to caring for themselves. What was originally providing care a few hours a week has seamlessly transitioned to a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week commitment.
Respite aims to support and maintain the main relationship between the caregiver and the patient by temporarily providing care to the elderly relative. However, beyond the benefits that respite care provides for the carer, the benefits are amplified for the person requiring care.
Respite care in its essence is designed for the person requiring care. Although carers certainly benefit, it’s the elderly relative that often benefits from the effects of respite. Studies show that a break in routine and having a new social group to interact with show people an ‘improvement in functioning’ with the effects thought to be greatest when the patient had been cared for by a stressed or exhausted carer.
When a person chooses a respite care home to spend some time in, it can be seen as a short “holiday” or “care break” for them. They are able to enjoy a break for the norm, surrounded by like-minded people, whilst enjoying the security and care that a respite care home can provide them. It is also an opportunity to trial the services of a residential home for the elderly to see whether, if conditions worsen over time, it would make a suitable arrangement for a long-term commitment.
Respite care can be hugely advantageous. It is certainly by no means an admission that a carer is incapable of performing a service, nor does it suggest that a child doesn’t wish to care for their parent. Instead, it’s a way of helping loved ones improve their quality of life.
In summary, respite care for the elderly can help delay moving your loved one into a long-term care facility and can reduce fatigue for a caregiver, giving them the chance to maintain their own overall health and wellness. Similarly it gives a welcome break for the elderly relative, a new social group and often memories to cherish.