Using Respite Care to Help Overcome Caregiver Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

Posted at Sep 27, 2013 | 786 Comments

Dear Sandy:

I am the primary caregiver for my father. He lives with the lasting effects of a stroke he suffered 3 years ago. I care for him 24/7. I know his quality of life is so poor and try my best to help support him emotionally and physically. Lately, however, I find myself struggling. I am having bad dreams at night, angry much of the time, and feeling very negative. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I love my father and want to help him any way I can.

Barb in Boyne City, Michigan

Adult Daughter Caregiver


Dear Barb:

What you are describing sounds like caregiver burnout or maybe even compassion fatigue. If you have been caring for your father around the clock for three years now, it is no surprise that you are experiencing this. Caregivers have a difficult job. It is both mentally and physically exhausting.

Respite care can be a solution for caregivers who need to take a break to recover their own emotional and physical health. There are both informal and formal types of respite.

Informal Respite:

  • If friends or other loved ones ask if there is anything they can do to help, say YES. Caregivers typically decline help and feel guilty for even considering it. Allow yourself to accept help even for an hour or two. Your friend or loved one could read to your father, watch television with him or just sit with him while you take a break.
  • If you belong to a church, synagogue or other religious organization, investigate what elder care resources they may offer. Many churches have parish nurses or friendly visitors who volunteer their time to visit elderly and disabled shut-ins in their community.
  • Call your area agency on aging. They may have a list of providers in your area that provide low cost respite services.

Paid Respite Providers:

  • In-home care agencies can come in to the home to provide care for your loved one. Call a few different agencies to see what services they offer, how much their hourly rate is, what minimum amount of hours are required and what kind of background checks they perform on caregivers. Be sure to meet the caregivers in person before making your decision.
  • You could consider an adult day program. They are typically operated by area non-profit organizations like The Alzheimer’s Association. Many offer transportation assistance.
  • Don’t overlook your local assisted living community. Many of them, like The Brook Retirement Communities in northern Michigan, offer respite care programs that allow your loved one to stay at their local community for up to one month. They enjoy all of the dining services and life enrichment programs of any other resident.

I hope this information helps to give you some options, Barb. If you have more questions, please call or visit The Brook of Boyne City. The team will be glad to help!




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