Preventing Senior Isolation

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care for the elderly is any service that supports and maintains the primary caregiving relationship by providing temporary care to an aging parent, spouse, or loved one.

If you’re the family caregiver for an aging loved one, you may be experiencing some form of stress or burnout. It’s natural for family caregivers to become so involved in taking care of someone else that they tend to allow their own needs to get put aside.

This is why respite care is so important for caregivers. As the number of caregivers increases— and there are already an estimated 34.2 million caregivers in the country today—the number of people suffering from exhaustion, stress, isolation, depression, and physical ailments is also rising. This is no coincidence. Primary caregivers need to recognize that they deserve a break from their responsibilities to take care of themselves, too. And taking some time away from caregiving duties will make the person a better caregiver in the long run.

Many family caregivers feel guilty at the thought of seeking respite services for their loved ones. A recent survey of caregivers by the National Family Caregivers Association showed that it’s challenging for spouse caregivers to acknowledge that their role is different and separate from their role as a spouse. Caregivers need to acknowledge that caregiving plays a totally separate part in their lives and that the job of long-term caregiving can be too big for just one person to handle.

Finding Relief in Respite Care

The benefits of respite care are numerous for family caregivers. Taking time away from caregiving demands will leave a caregiver refreshed and renewed, allowing them the opportunity to re-energize to be a more effective caregiver. Caregivers deserve time for activities they enjoy, whether it be reading, gardening, taking a walk, taking in a movie or museum, or whatever relaxes and eases the caregiver’s spirit. It’s also important for family caregivers to maintain social relationships with friends and other family members to avoid isolation and depression. And caregivers may need time to take care of personal errands such as seeing their own doctor or possibly attending a support group with other caregivers.

Ideally, caregivers will have regularly scheduled breaks provided by help from friends or other family members. However, if that support is not available to the caregiver, various respite care options are available. Respite care services are offered through community agencies, home health care companies, and residential care facilities. A good place to start in the U.S. is the Eldercare Locator, a free nationwide toll-free service designed to assist older adults and their caregivers find services in their community. Additional resources are local senior centers, Area Agencies on Aging, and the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Companies like Aspen Senior Care in Utah Valley, UT, can be a great option for family caregivers needing respite. Aspen provides:

⦁ Caring companionship
⦁ Personal hygiene care and showering
⦁ Homemaking assistance and light housekeeping
⦁ Meal planning and preparation
⦁ Transportation and help with errands
⦁ Medication reminders and assistance
⦁ Family caregiver coaching
⦁ Alzheimer’s and dementia care
⦁ Respite, night care & holiday care
⦁ Hospice care (non-medical)
⦁ And much more!

During a free assessment, Aspen will:

⦁ Discuss matching you with the best caregiver
⦁ Assess your loved one’s personal care needs
⦁ Determine health care, medication, and nutritional needs
⦁ Discuss emergency response services
⦁ Determine homemaking and transportation services
⦁ Discuss service costs and payment options
⦁ And, Create a quality care plan for your loved one

It is also ideal for family caregivers to create space in their home solely for themselves, whether that be a reading nook or an extra bedroom. Caregivers are advised to designate time every day, such as while the care receiver is taking a nap or when they first go to bed — something just for themselves.

Before planning respite care, caregivers should talk with their loved one about it so that they understand the benefit to both.

Remember that respite care should not be considered a luxury but a necessity for the caregivers’ well-being and their aging loved ones.

Contributor for The Senior’s Choice

For many older adults, mobility limitations, health issues and low energy can keep them from the social engagement they once enjoyed. Especially in seniors who live alone, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor physical health. Pet therapy has been shown to benefit seniors by improving depression and anxiety symptoms, increasing self-care, and even improving heart-health. It turns out giving and receiving unconditional love is literally good for your heart.

Proven Benefits of Pet Companionship

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a nationwide charity committed to connecting seniors with therapy animals, has collected research on pet therapy for seniors. These studies discuss the physiological and psychological impact of animals on seniors’ quality of life. Here are their findings:

Physical Benefits

Heart Health—Frequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Improved Activity—Walking, grooming or playing with a pet increases the frequency of physical activity and exercise, which in turn has countless health benefits.

Healthy Behavior—Those who own a pet tend to take better care of themselves. Caring for a pet helps to develop a routine, encouraging owners to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.

Social & Emotional Benefits

Increased Interaction—Walking a dog gets senior owners out of the house and increases their opportunities to socialize with neighbors.

Decreased Loneliness—Pets provide companionship, giving isolated seniors a source for affection, conversation and activity.

Stress Relief—Being with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress. It also provides physical contact, which helps to calm anxiety.

Better Self-Esteem —For seniors discouraged by their age, appearance or limited abilities, pets are welcome company, reminding seniors that they are still capable of being loved and needed.

Sense of Purpose—The company of an animal provides a reason to get up in the morning. Pets combat depression symptoms by eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Knowing that they are loved and needed enhances seniors’ mental health.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet

If you think your loved one would benefit from owning a pet, ask yourself these questions to help you make a wise decision:

What is the best choice for a pet? If your loved one has trouble walking or is more limited in their ability to provide constant attention to a pet, a cat might be a better choice than a dog.

Is my loved one an experienced pet owner?

Taking on the responsibilities of owning a pet could be overwhelming for a senior who has never had one before.

Photo by Snapwire from Pexels

Are finances an issue? Consider your loved one’s financial situation. Animal care can be expensive, and if your loved one is on a fixed income, owning a pet could cause financial burdens. Assess the costs before you commit.

Choose the right pet. Do your research to find a pet whose age, size, personality and energy level fit well with your loved one’s.

Could I adopt an animal in need? Older animals in shelters have a lower adoption rate than puppies or kittens and have a greater risk of being euthanized. Adopting an adult, healthy pet for your loved one can eliminates the stress of training, match your loved one’s energy level and save the life of a loving animal.

By Caren Parnes

For the Senior’s Choice