Respite care tends to be undervalued by those who don’t really understand the nature of it. For those who actually take advantage of it, it is something they could never live without. Before answering the question, “Why is respite care important?“, we first have to define it.
What is Respite Care?
Respite care is a service that provides support for family caregivers by providing temporary care for a loved one that needs attention and assistance. It relieves the family caregiver of his or her duties so that he or she can either have a needed rest and recharge their batteries or addresses temporary short-term scheduling conflicts.
Respite care is temporary care, which can last anywhere from an hour to a couple weeks. It can be be used for a one-time occasion or as a regularly scheduled service to support a caregiver.
Why is Respite Care Important?
Studies reveal that those people who act as primary caregivers for family members tend to be at a higher risk for stress-related health conditions such as depression and various chronic diseases.
Respite care is not a luxury, but should instead be seen as an key component of any caregiving program. Regularly scheduled respites are recommended instead of waiting until the caregiver is on the verge of burnout. There are clear benefits for the loved one as well as the caregiver.
Respite Care Benefits for the Caregiver:
Allows caregivers to rest and rejuvenate so they may return to their caregiving duties refreshed and with a renewed sense of resolve
Reduces the stress inherent with caregiving
Boosts the immune system by allowing the caregiver to get a much needed break
Improves the patience of the caregiver
Restores the caregiver’s energy
Allows the caregiver to attend to their personal responsibilities beyond caregiving
Removes the issues of social isolation and depression that can set in for a caregiver
Allows the caregiver to engage in his or her own live apart from their loved one so that they can care for their own family, maintain friendships and pursue their career
Provides opportunities for vacations and other outings
Offers the caregiver a bit of distance from the situation to potentially gain a new sense of perspective
Respite Care Benefits for the Patient:
Since many of the benefits for the caregiver allow them to better perform their duties they are also direct benefits for the loved one that is being cared for
Provides more variety and new relationships for the patient
Reduces feelings of social isolation and depression
Provides opportunities for growth and development
Ensures the patient will not be neglected at times when a family caregiver can’t be there, so that all of their needs are met
By Gdudycha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Any caregiver who pushes themselves too hard is risking becoming ill themselves which might make it more difficult or impossible for them to care for their loved one. It is easier to prevent burnout by using respite care services on regular or semi-regular basis. Don’t wait for burnout to make those choices.
Burnout doesn’t benefit anyone. It exhausts your physical, mental and emotional energy and can lead to resentment and care that is not up to par.
A caregiver should ever feel guilty about respite care. It actually means that you are taking responsibility to do what you need to do so that you can be a better caregiver for your loved one.