No one ever plans on burning out. Sure, you know caregiving might be stressful, but you didn’t think it would lead to feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted.
Your parent doesn’t plan on falling, either. But when they do, it usually means a trip to the emergency room, then a stay at a rehabilitation facility — and then what? Oftentimes the home where the fall happened isn’t the home that’s most conducive to life with a broken hip or a fractured pelvis.
That’s where respite care comes in.
What Is Respite Care?
At the most basic level, respite care offers caregivers a temporary break from their caregiving duties. Respite services can be provided in a variety of settings, from the home to a day center to an assisted living community.
A short-term stay at an assisted living community — also known as a respite stay — is an especially useful option when planned or unforeseen circumstances occur, such as a much-needed vacation or a health crisis. In just a matter of days, your loved one can move into a private furnished apartment, receive assistance with activities of daily living, and be integrated into a community of peers.
This can be a life-saver for caregivers struggling with burnout or navigating stressful caregiving situations.
It was for Andy and Lynn, two adult children who reached out to The Arbors when they needed help. Here are their stories.
Rehabilitation Respite Care
Holly was just trying to check the mail. But winters in Westfield, Massachusetts, are brutal, and her long, steep driveway was slick. She slipped and fell, banging up her wrist and knee.
After a trip to the hospital, Holly was transferred to a rehab facility, where a social worker told her son Andy that returning home wasn’t in the cards for Holly unless they made some major safety modifications to the home. But Holly was about to be discharged from rehab. The social worker suggested a respite stay at an assisted living facility until they could figure out the next steps.
That’s when Andy and his wife, Stacy, called Alicia Dessereau, Marketing Director at The Arbors at Westfield.
“Stacy and Andy were really stressed,” Dessereau recalls. “They had been casually thinking about assisted living but didn’t realize how close they were to needing something until they got slapped in the face with it. It was a wakeup call that it wasn’t a good idea for her to be home alone anymore.”
Within four days, Holly had moved into a fully furnished apartment at The Arbors. She continued to see a physical therapist and occupational therapist, who stopped by the assisted living community regularly to work with her on her strength and improve her ability to perform daily activities. And she became a fixture in the lobby — the community’s social hub.
“My lobby is always really busy,” Dessereau says. “Holly comes downstairs and reads the paper and does the crossword puzzle and gets in on the small talk. She’s doing really great.”
Andy and Stacy are doing better, too. “The panic is gone from their faces,” Dessereau says. “They’re not frantically trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. That time crunch is gone.”
They extended Holly’s respite stay another three weeks, and Andy is hopeful that having a chance to interact with others having similar experiences, spend time in a safe and supportive environment, and participate in social activities will make the transition to assisted living easier on his mom.
Respite is a great way to ease the transition of moving to assisted living. “The staff embrace respite stay residents as if they’re a new resident,” Dessereau says. “Our resident care assistants will walk them to the dining room. We knock on their door to get them to come downstairs. We pull them out into the community.”
Caregiver Burnout Respite Care
Lynn was working a full-time job as an accountant — and driving over an hour to her aging mom’s house to check on her once a week. Her mom, Janet, was having difficulty managing her finances and paying her bills and she wasn’t eating well, if at all.
When dehydration and an untreated urinary tract infection sent Janet to the emergency room, Lynn knew her mom shouldn’t return home alone. Lynn also knew she couldn’t keep up with the caregiving demands. “My stress level was through the roof,” Lynn says.
So when Janet was discharged from rehab, she went to The Arbors at Westfield, where she stayed in a short-term respite stay apartment. This allowed Lynn to make arrangements for her to move into the assisted living community long term.
“The respite stay was great because I didn't have to worry about moving her furniture or setting up her phone, or getting her mail transferred right away,” Lynn says. “The room was furnished, and she was in a place where she was getting taken care of while I was doing all the behind-the-scenes work: I moved all her health care providers from Athol to Westfield. I got her mail forwarded. I had the Athol newspaper forwarded to her so she still has a connection to home. Respite care really eased the transition.”
Today, Janet is a full-time resident at The Arbors. She enjoys playing the piano, joining her new friends in card games, and going out to lunch with her daughter. Lynn enjoys the 10-minute drive to her mom’s house, playing cribbage together, and having part of her life — and her mom — back.
These are only a few stories of how respite care helped caregivers take care of themselves while their loved ones continued to get the care they needed. To read more stories about the benefits of respite care The Arbors, download our eBook, Parenting the Parent: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter Again.