Caregiving day in, day out, is a recipe for stress. If you care for your aging parent, you know firsthand. Ditto if you watch one parent caring for his or her spouse.
Taking a "respite" is essential. The word literally means a rest. Today that rest can take several forms:
1. Every day respite: Breaks--for several hours at a time or even a day here and there--are critical for the caregiver to survive. Family members or paid caregivers can come to the rescue. So can adult day centers, or home care providers. You can find respite type resources at local senior centers.
2. Longer chunks of respite time: The caregiver may need or want to take a vacation. Take one of my clients, Mary. She had cared for her husband, who had suffered several strokes, for a decade. This last summer she had a chance to go to Canada on a "girls retreat" with her daughters, granddaughters and her sister. But what to do with her husband? She moved him into an assisted living community under "respite" status. In this case he stayed for a week. (Respite stays are typically up to one month.) She returned rested and with many stories to tell. The bill for his care was $200 a day; the whole family said it was worth every penny!
3. Extended respite at home: Sometimes it's easy for an ill parent to stay at home with a paid caregiver. Home is familiar, and possibly the best place for him or her to stay while their spouse is away. This option is the most expensive, however. Home Care agencies charge about $300 a day for live-in caregivers.
There are other creative alternatives that can help bring respite to the caregiver. Family members can pitch in to care for Dad or Mom for a few hours--or a few days. Or mix paid and unpaid help to relieve the caregiver. Do whatever works.