Is It Time to Take a Break From Caregiving?

Are you currently caring for a loved one? If so, how are you personally feeling?

Mentally drained? Emotionally and physically exhausted? Although you may feel isolated, I assure you that you’re not alone. In fact, approximately 3 in 10 Canadians are family caregivers — with over 8 million individuals over the age of 15, providing care for a loved one has a chronic condition.

Caregiving requires so much for you in every aspect of your well-being. Sometimes, family caregivers get into routines and take on responsibilities, only to find out that before they know it, they’re suffering from caregiver burnout. This will not only affect one’s health, but also their ability to care.

There are some key red flags that you may need to step back, at least momentarily — do you need a break?

There Are Numerous Care Options Available

Taking a break from caregiving isn’t selfish — in fact, it’s selfless. You have been caring for someone, putting them before yourself day in and day out, right? Being aware that you need a break, is responsible caregiving. If you burn out, you can no longer take care of your loved one or yourself.

Known as respite care, you have a number of options. What works for you and your loved one, may not work for someone else, so it’s a highly personal decision. Basically, in-home or facility-based respite care are your two main options, each with their own unique benefits.

In-home respite brings the caregivers and services you need, directly to the comfort of your home. For many, this is the ideal solution, as it doesn’t require your loved one to readjust to a new environment. Whether that means you hire a live-in caregiver or a companion, you will be provided with that extra, and much needed level of support.

When you go through a trusted home care agency, for instance, you can choose what works for you. Do you just need someone to come care for your loved one a few hours, two days a week? Perhaps that is all you need, in order to tend to your own needs. Maybe you need to go back to work part-time, so a companion is what you’re looking for.

Depending on your loved one’s needs, as well as your current physical and mental state, you may want to look into facility-care. Since this can be quite expensive and may not provide the flexibility you’re looking for, adult day care programs are also available in most cities. Sometimes, you just want your loved one to have company, support, and some level of stimulation.

What the Research Has to Say

When personally speaking to caregivers who have taken advantage of respite care, you will quickly realize the positive effect it can have on everyone involved. With that being said, is there any research that states these positive effects? Here are a few studies which have focused on the needs of caregivers.

Within one study, published in the Gerontologist, 642 family caregivers of aged Alzheimer’s patients were examined. Half of these participants were offered respite care and over the course of 12 months, these families were able to include and maintain their loved one significantly longer within the community (an extra 22 days).

Although caregivers still experienced some level of burden in terms of mental health, overall satisfaction was very high. It was concluded that respite care did, in fact, increase quality of life for the caregivers. Considering this study is well over a decade old, so much has happened within science, more specifically, neuroscience.

Alzheimer’s is, of course, one of the most challenging diseases to jump into in terms of care. This is why you should never be shy to ask questions and seek support. More recently, a 2012 study, published in the International Journal of Integrated Care, found that integrated support, based on an individual’s social, physical, and psychological needs are preferred.

It was found that when introducing respite care, depression, anger, and burden were all reduced. By tailoring to an individual’s needs, stress and role strain were also improved. For those who gained group support, they experienced a positive effect on their coping ability, social support, and knowledge.

Caregiving is not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why at Thistlecreek Health Care, we personally offer a range of services. When you allow yourself to take a break physically, mentally and emotionally, you can focus on increasing financial support.

Please be aware of caregiver benefits, provided by the government of Canada, more specifically, programs and grants for Ontario caregivers and seniors. Remember, you are not alone. The support you require is available — we will help you create a plan that works for you and your loved one. Please contact us today with any questions or concerns you may have.

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