Respite Care for Caregivers

Respite care is a resource that dementia caregivers may want to explore. Reader comments sparked by my piece on family support showed that many of you really need assistance. Respite care isn’t available everywhere, but I’m offering some tips for finding out if this life preserver is offered in your area.

Respite Care for Caregivers

The search begins at your Area Agency on Aging. The purpose of these agencies is to “help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible”.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services oversees the nation’s network of Area Agencies on Aging. Click on this link to find your home state and county. Most states have an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in each county. If you reside in Arkansas, Delaware, Nevada, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wyoming or the District of Columbia, you have no county agency. Your state AAA serves all communities.

If your county or state link doesn’t work (mine didn’t!), just do a Google search for your State/County Area Agency on Aging. I won’t vouch for the quality of agency services. The first time my mom lived with me, our local agency on aging was wonderful. They came to our house and did a prompt assessment. My mom was eligible for subsidized adult day care services. Her participation in the adult day program helped me keep working while caring for her in my home. Back then, she was walking and talking. I believe the adult day program kept her healthy longer.

After that period, my mother lived away from me for a while and my sister managed her care. Last year when Mom returned to my house, I called the Area Agency on Aging right away. Now the agency’s service is terrible. It has taken them to months to complete my mom’s assessment. I’m telling you this because you need to be ready to stamp your feet if you don’t get their attention right away.

Even if you have to wait, it’s worth it. Just get your name on their list. When it comes to programs that support dementia patients and their families, the Agency on Aging people know a lot. Services in states like New Jersey are pretty extensive. They have a Statewide Respite Care Program that provides services for elderly people and their caregivers. The program is designed to “relieve unpaid caregivers of stress arising from the responsibility of providing daily care”. You can also look at the ARCHRespite Care site to see if your state has received a grant to provide Lifespan Respite Care services.

If you or your loved one served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be eligible for respite benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA). The VA “provides inpatient respite coverage for up to 30 days per year for qualified veterans. In addition, when war-time vets care for their spouses, funding for in-home services are available on a state-by-state basis”.

To find the right program for your family, you may have to scroll through a lot of useless stuff. But one of these links may guide you to a site or service that can make a huge difference in your life. Next week, I’ll share some unconventional methods I’ve used to get support at home. In the meantime, best of luck in your efforts to find assistance.

Family Support for Caregivers

Family support means the world to me as I strive to take care of my mom. Yesterday I was lucky to have many family members come to offer their support and love to mom and our household. There was a period in my life when I didn’t fully grasp the value of these moments. Thank goodness my eyes are now open.

Family Support for Caregivers

Family support for caregivers is essential. Taking care of a sick person can drain your spirit, even when you take care of yourself and protect your health. Over the past few weeks, I’ve suffered from strained back muscles and general fatigue. Yet for months I’ve been dreaming of a big fall equinox party with a bonfire under a bright moon. It took a lot of effort, but we managed to have this gathering yesterday. We celebrated my mom’s tremendous ability to survive and be happy despite advanced dementia.

It was so touching to see aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends, and children come together for this all-day affair. We had to do it before the cold weather kills our petunias and steals our leaves. Everyone shared food and drinks, stories and tears. It was such a special occasion. The last time we gathered like this, my mom pretended to sleep. Now we’ve learned how to manage my mom’s “tricks” so she can connect with people who travelled far to spend time here. It was beautiful to see her hold her sister’s hand, laughing at the sound of a familiar voice.

I think it’s very possible that life is best savored through occasions when everyone can share their gifts (emotional and material) with loved ones. Caregivers are tired and overwhelmed as a group. We do too much; we can’t manage everything. When family members have a chance to offer their love and support, it’s almost better than a vacation. They leave an echo of their energy behind them. That feeling can sustain us during the next period of exhausting effort. I can still see the smiling faces and remember the glow of the campfire under the moonlight. Even the most difficult struggles have their moments of bliss. Tomorrow I’ll toil, but today I rest on the strength of what others have brought to us.