Getting a Break: Ideas for a Week Of Respite

sand-84589_640@G-J shared a story with me about caring for her father about five years ago during our Sandwich Shop talk show in January. After her mother died, G-J’s father moved from Arizona to her home in California. After a few months of living together, G-J invited her father to join her husband and son on a long-planned week-long vacation.

His response: Absolutely not. I’m not going.

But G-J couldn’t not go. It had been a difficult time for her and her family. She missed her mom. And, the transition of having her father live with her family was rough; she gathered guilt every day as she watched her husband and son make sacrifices to make the living arrangement work. She couldn’t ask them to give up a vacation that they couldn’t wait to start.

So, she came up with a solution that ensured she and her family enjoyed their trip and gave her peace of mind that her father would be okay in their absence.

She found an assisted living facility in her community which offers respite stays—short-term stays so that a family caregiver (and sometimes a family) can get a break.

Both assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities offer respite stays; some facilities offer stays for as short as a long weekend. You’ll want to search for a facility for short-term stays as if you’re looking for a permanent place. You’ll want to visit facilities, ask questions and research the kind of care the facility provides. (See “How Do I Find the Right Facility?” and Help to Find Quality Care for more information on searching for facilities.)

If you plan to use a facility for a respite stay of a week or longer, you may want to do a test run—have your family member stay for a long weekend while you’re in town so you can work through any glitches that come up. During the weekend stay, you’ll learn what to expect, how to prepare and how to manage, which will help you feel more comfortable leaving for that longer vacation.

It can worrisome when you leave your family member. As G-J told me, it’s like sending your child off to camp. To ease your worries, you can schedule regular phone calls and check-ins with your family member while you’re gone. You also may want to leave a calendar with your family member that details the schedule of phone calls as well as the day you’ll return. Consider sending notes and postcards and care packages to your family member while you’re gone. And, ask other family members and friends to visit more frequently in your absence.

Typically, your family member will pay for the short-term stay. Funding for respite stays may be available for programs offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs (if your family member is a veteran) and through your local Area Agency. You’ll find contact information for these programs listed below.

If your family member qualifies for Medicaid (the insurance program for low-income individuals), ask your family member’s case worker for information on coverage for respite stays. In addition, if your family member currently receives care through Hospice, check with the Hospice social worker about benefits for respite stays.

When have you used an assisted living or skilled nursing facility for a short-term stay? What suggestions would you to offer to others considering a short-term respite stay?

Respite Series

Vacation Resources

Respite Resources

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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