When it’s time to take a break from your role as a caregiver
By: Dr. Nestor Praderio
Alittle rest to recharge, re-energize and return to the process of caregiving is the best prescription I can recommend for caregivers. When our loved one becomes ill and incapacitated, we tend to demonstrate a natural tendency to protect, nurture and care for them. We assume the role of “caregiver.” In tandem with the gradual decline and debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, our caregiver responsibilities tend to multiply with each stage. The physical, financial and emotional strain can be cataclysmic.
Data from www.Alzheimers.gov reflects that about 15 million people care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in the United States. Other research data estimates that family caregivers provide 17.1 billion hours of unpaid care. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and irreversible.
Caring for your loved one can be heartwarming, yet extremely challenging and overwhelming. It is often stated that in order to care for others, you must take good care of yourself. If you are at your optimum, your loved one receives the most excellent care possible. Sometimes, in order to reach your optimum, you must seek respite.
Respite is not often recognized as a viable option by caregivers. This may be a result of guilt, extreme devotion and/or dedication or a perceived sense of duty and that only they are able to provide the level of care their loved ones need and deserve. Unfortunately, I have witnessed scenarios in which caregivers neglect themselves to the point of their own detriment.
I recall a gentleman (Mr. D.) in his early 80s who was the sole caregiver of his wife, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. She was a few years older than he was. They had one daughter who lived out of state, and they had no other relatives. A friend provided transportation to doctors’ appointments and grocery shopping. They accepted services from Meals on Wheels. Mr. D. assisted his wife with all activities of daily living (ADLs).
One day, the Meals on Wheels driver had to call 911 because Mr. D. collapsed as soon as he came to the door to accept their meal. The paramedics transported Mr. D. to the hospital, where he was admitted for dehydration and heart problems. A neighbor notified the daughter, and then stayed with Mrs. D. until support services were initiated. Due to her own health issues, the daughter was unable to travel.
Mr. D. hired a volunteer in-home companion to stay with his wife until he was released. He was discharged after three days; however, Mr. D. was readmitted several times due to his declining health. The Senior Community Services program staff secured a voucher for in-home respite services allowing for a senior companion to provide care up to four hours a day for 20 hours per week. Despite the support, Mr. D. would not leave his wife or follow up on his own medical condition. Mr. D. passed away a short time later. The daughter moved her mother to a long-term care facility.
The availability of respite support services is essential to the health and vitality of a family caregiver. The Face to Face Coastal Bend Walk for Memory is the only event raising funds to serve the Coastal Bend community by promoting awareness and education about Alzheimer’s disease, providing respite support and resource options for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). All funds are dedicated to the Coastal Bend area. The Ninth Annual Walk for Memory will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 at Heritage Park.
The Coastal Bend community helped us generate approximately $10,000 in walk pledges, event sponsorships and donations each year. Those proceeds have been dedicated to the Walk for Memory Respite Fund administered through the Coastal Bend Area Agency on Aging. There are three types of local respite vouchers available with up to 30 hours of short-term respite services:
1. In-home respite services provided through a contracted home health agency in the client’s home
2. In-home respite services provided through the City of Corpus Christi’s Senior Companion Program
3. Temporary long-term care stay services in a contracted long-term care facility
Face To Face, LLC, coordinates referrals in collaboration with WellMed Caregiver SOS Resource Center at the Lindale Senior Center. Integration of our respite care program serves as an enhanced standard of care for those suffering from the disease.