Caregiving can be a very stressful situation, even under the best of circumstances. A lecturer once used an example to explain stress management to an audience. He raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranging from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.
The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try and hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance.”
“In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.
“So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work/life down. Don’t carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow.
“Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can. Relax: pick them up later after you’ve rested. Life is short. Enjoy.”
This story is very true of caregiving. Every caregiver needs time away to refresh. Caregiving can be very stressful on the caregiver as well as their family. There have been many times when the caregiver has suffered a medical emergency or even death before the loved one they are caring for. Caregivers need to learn to take care of themselves or they will not be able to care for their loved one. One way a caregiver can take care of themselves is by making use of some respite services.
Respite can be provided by a home health agency coming in and providing care so the caregiver can get a much needed break. Individuals who are on hospice and live at home can get respite services in a long-term care facility for a short period of time. Respite services can be a few hours a day/week up to 24 hours a day for a specified period of time. Unfortunately, we have seen too many times where the caregiver refused to give themselves the break, either because they did not want to accept that they needed a break or they didn’t want to spend any money on the agency/facility, etc. to provide that break. This is often shortsighted, as the failure to keep the caregiver fresh led to either something traumatic happening, or at the very least hastening the need for permanent placement in long-term care—which likely cost exponentially more than the costs of several breaks would have cost.
If you choose a few hours a week or decide to place your loved one in a long-term care facility for a week or two, respite services can make the difference on if you are able to continue to provide care in the home or if you are looking at long-term care placement. In most cases, the individual would like to be able to stay in their home. For those individuals, respite care may very well be the answer they are looking for.