Caring for an aging loved one who needs help is a major undertaking. Balancing this responsibility with other areas of your life, such as work, makes the job even tougher. (It’s estimated that nearly 60 percent of family caregivers are juggling caregiving with work outside of the home). As a caregiver, it’s crucial to take breaks in order to keep from burning out and jeopardizing your own health, If you’re exhausted from caregiving, here are some ways you can give yourself a break while ensuring your loved one gets the care they need.
Ask Friends and Family for Help
Friends and family are the first people you should ask for help, as they’re more likely to have a connection to the loved one you’re caring for, and they’re people you trust. Asking your close friends and family to occasionally step in as caregivers has several advantages:
- They’ll gain a better understanding of what you face as a family caregiver.
- Your loved one will be cared for by someone they know (in most cases).
- They won’t charge you anything (although you might consider getting them a thank-you gift).
Friends and relatives can be especially helpful if you only need help for a few hours, or if you need ongoing assistance but can’t afford to pay a respite care service.
Look to Elder Companions
Consider enlisting the help of an elder companion for basic respite care. Elder companions might help with meal preparation, light housekeeping, shopping and running errands, among other activities. Most importantly, they provide companionship for your loved one when you aren’t there.
An elder companion may be a paid professional or a volunteer. One of the best-known elder companion services is Meals on Wheels. Along with providing meals, many local programs also have a volunteer-based Friendly Visitor Program.
Elder companions are an appropriate choice if your loved one only needs some company or assistance with basic tasks.
Consider a Personal Care Assistant
Personal care assistants help with everything that elder companions do, and can also assist with grooming. They can help your older loved one with bathing, toileting and dressing, and some are also licensed to administer prescribed medications.
If your loved one doesn’t need medical assistance but has trouble with maintaining their grooming and hygiene, a personal care assistant will provide the proper level of care. These professionals can either provide occasional assistance, regular help for a few hours at a time or live-in personal care.
If you’ve been caring for a loved one for a long time, give yourself a break. Taking care of a family member or close friend is a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor, but it can also be exhausting. Ask family and friends if they can help, and then consider what type of respite care would be best for your loved one’s situation.
When considering respite care options, keep in mind that expenses associated with respite care may qualify you for a tax credit. (You should check with a CPA who can evaluate your specific situation). Often, the costs are reasonable — and the chance you’ll get to re-charge and take care of yourself will be invaluable.
Laura Dixon is a writer and editor Caring.com, the leading online destination for the more than 43 million family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. We’re focused on giving the expert information, tools and reviews on assisted living, senior care services, and in-home care. We help family caregivers make better decisions, save time and money, and feel less alone as they face the myriad challenges that come with this rewarding yet difficult role.