Caregiver Respite: It Is Not a Luxury, But As Research Shows a Necessity

An important, sometimes overlooked service provided by our homemaker and
companion services agency is caregiver respite. Just how important is respite
care? Far more than you may imagine. In fact, research indicates for those who
are caregivers, hiring a qualified home companion care agency like ours (or a
home health agency if your loved one needs daily, hands-on medical care) is not
a luxury you can afford to go without, but a necessity.

As experts point out no one can regularly, day-after-day expend considerable
time and energy to giving a loved one the care he or she deserves, without a
temporary “break” from this ongoing, demanding routine. At some point, burnout
is almost certain if you try to maintain this lifestyle without a reprieve. And, this is
exactly what respite care provides – a short, but necessary means of relief for
primary caregivers continuously faced with the demands of caring for someone
with special needs. Through respite care, the caregiver has the opportunity to
relax, recharge and remember that there is more to life than caregiving 24/7.
Respite care is about caregiving for you so you can continue to provide your
loved one with the best possible care so they may experience the highest quality
of life on a daily basis.

Several years ago, the National Family Caregivers Association conducted a
Caregiver Member Survey. Data from the survey indicated that while caregivers
found an “inner strength” which helped them greatly in caregiving that they never
realized they had, a majority of those in the study reported suffering from sleep
deprivation and/or depression. Perhaps an even more startling statistic, the
Journal of American Medical Association reported from another study that in the
case of elderly caregivers, those who were stressed proved to have a 63%
higher mortality rate than non-stressed caregivers.

Furthermore, medical experts say that even if you as a caregiver do not manifest
a serious physical or mental condition through the stresses common with
caregiving, you still are very likely to be in a depressed state. That’s because
caregivers are often saddened by the loss of their previous lifestyle. They miss
the things they can no longer do and enjoy, as they previously did for so many
years.

The Good News: Respite Helps

According to data by the National Respite Coalition, respite improves family
functioning, enhances satisfaction with life, improves the capacity to cope with
stress, and provides more positive attitudes toward a disabled family member.
(Cohen and Warren, 1985). In a national survey conducted in 1989 of families of
a child with a disability, 74% reported that respite care caused a significant
difference in their ability to provide care at home. Furthermore, 35% of the
respite users stated that without respite services they would have considered out
of the home placement for their family member (Knoll, James, Human Services
Research Institute, 1989).

It probably goes without saying that the respite care of choice is someone who is
qualified to come into a home, making it possible for the caregiver to leave for a
few hours on a regular basis, or for a few days, to truly “getaway” from the
stresses of around-the-clock caregiving. This has proven to be the least costly
and most convenient form of respite care. Equally important, it provides the
opportunity for caregivers to receive one of the essential components to good
caregiving — a temporary break from their responsibilities that is by no means a
luxury, but a true necessity to be their best as a caregiver.

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