Taking care of an aging or ill family member can be enormously rewarding but also exhausting and emotionally draining.
More than a third of family caregivers rate their job as highly stressful emotionally, and nearly 1 in 5 reports a high level of physical strain, according to the "Caregiving in the U.S. 2020" report from AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC).
Plowing through might feel doable in the short term, but too much time without a break can lead to caregiver burnout, depression and health problems. Every caregiver needs a caregiver — someone who will tend to your loved one for a few hours, days or weeks so you can take care of yourself.
Respite care can help you make it through the long haul, and that’s good for both you and your loved one. But only 14 percent of family caregivers avail themselves of respite services, even though 38 percent believe doing so would help them, the AARP/NAC study found.
Respite can come in many forms: from family and friends; volunteer groups; faith-based organizations; local, state and federal agencies; or paid respite workers. It can take place in the home, or at an outside facility such as an adult day care center.
Some long-term care insurance plans cover part of the cost of respite care.
Design a family respite care plan
The first step in developing a family plan is thinking through your needs and who’s available to help fill them.
• What do you need? Three hours off, twice a week? Twenty-four hours away from the house? A regular day (or night) out with your spouse or friends? A combination of the above?
• What does your loved one need? Meals? Laundry? Light housekeeping? Personal care? Daily walks? Medical help? List every job, large and small.
• Who can pinch-hit? Cast a wide net. List family near and far, your friends and your loved one’s friends.