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Published July 14, 2012, 11:30 PM

Bursack: Respite care needed to avoid caregiver burnout

Dear Carol: My husband has mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. I’m retired but still need to get out on my own now and then, and it’s getting hard to leave him alone. Do you have any ideas about how I can find time away and still keep him safe?

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My husband has mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. I’m retired but still need to get out on my own now and then, and it’s getting hard to leave him alone. Do you have any ideas about how I can find time away and still keep him safe? He hasn’t started to wander yet, but I’m very afraid he may walk off and get lost. We don’t qualify for any subsidized programs.

– Merna

Dear Merna: Caregivers need to approach caring for their personal needs with the same conviction as caring for their loved one. Otherwise, we’re set up for burnout. You are smart to start looking for options.

One solution that many people find provides a wonderful break is adult day care. Most adult day care facilities are very flexible, so you could choose, perhaps, three mornings a week, or a couple of full days for your husband to attend –whatever works for you. Your husband would be well taken care of and have a chance to socialize with peers. You would have time to do things you enjoy, so you’d both benefit.

In-home caregivers from an agency are also an excellent choice. You’d set up hourly caregiving services so that you can go out and do what you enjoy while your husband is cared for. Your husband’s time with a caregiver could be used for his hygiene and other routine needs so that you can simply enjoy each other when you return.

You may also want to check your state website. Every state has a version of the state administered, federally funded, National Family Caregiver Support Program. Once you connect with this program, you should find good general information as well as options for assistance, respite care, counseling, training and support groups in your community. You can call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 if you’d rather use the phone than the computer.

Another option is the National Respite Network and Resource Center (ARCH) at www.archrespite.org. The site includes “A Consumer’s Guide for Family Caregivers” among other valuable resources. If your husband or you are a veteran, call the VA Caregiver Support Line at (833) 260-3274 or visit the online VA Caregiver Support Center at www.caregiver.va.gov.

The Senior Companions Program can be a boon. If you call the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), they can tell you if Senior Companions are an option for you. I also encourage people to talk with their faith community leaders about the need for respite care. Many churches have parish nurse programs that can provide services. Some churches have the Steven Ministries for outreach. Others have people willing to volunteer to give respite care to a caregiver.

Merna, it is vital for you to take care of yourself for your husband’s sake as well as for your own. You want to be part of the care team long-term. For most caregivers, that usually means getting some type of outside assistance.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.

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