Hospice Can Bring Much Needed Relief to the Alzheimer’s Caregiver
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month — an important month to us here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice as so many of our patients suffer from this unfortunate disease. If you are a caregiver of a loved one in hospice, you know how rewarding yet utterly exhausting and challenging it can be on a day-to-day basis. You may just need some time away — to take care of errands, attend to your own family, get some work done, or just relax. Hospice in San Francisco and elsewhere can bring much-needed relief for caregivers.
Respite Care: Two-Fold Benefits
Everybody needs a break sometimes. Respite care during hospice allows caregivers (whether parents, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses or children) a temporary rest from the act of caregiving, while the person with Alzheimer’s still continues to get quality care in a safe environment, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Taking advantage of this help will support and strengthen your ability to be the best caregiver you can be.
For the caregiver, respite care during hospice can give you:
- A well-deserved chance to spend time with friends and family, or just relax with a book
- Time to address errands such as shopping, going to the gym, getting a haircut or seeing the doctor
- Comfort and peace of mind knowing your loved one with dementia is spending time with a qualified individual who cares
For the person with Alzheimer’s, respite care services lets them:
- Interact with others who have similar experiences
- Spend time in a safe, supportive, comforting environment
- Participate in activities that match their personal needs, interests, and abilities
Relieving Caregiver Burnout
Caregiving for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s is no doubt stressful, but when your loved one is in the final stages of life, caregiving takes on even more varied and overwhelming challenges. Care requirements escalate to include assistance with toileting and feeding, to frequent medication reminders to perhaps special wound care. On top of that, the uncertainty of when death will come can create additional emotional pressure on both sides.
If this is happening to you, you may be losing sleep, worrying all the time, and being vulnerable to isolation and fear. This, in turn, can lead to depression, fatigue, and anxiety — more commonly known as “caregiver burnout.” To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s vital that you take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, making time for yourself, eating right, exercising, and getting away from the demands of caregiving on a regular basis.
This is where hospice respite care comes in, designed to give family caregivers a much-needed break from caregiving duties while the patient continues to get the care they need at every level.
It’s normal to be worried about leaving your loved one with someone else. Here are some common concerns caregivers have about respite care within hospice:
- Cost: Concerned about how to pay for services. There may be sliding scale fees or government programs you can take advantage of. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association or hospice care provider to learn about the types of financial assistance that may be available to you.
- Reliability: Concerned about the dependability of the hospice care service? People who work for an agency or facility must be reliable and well trained, with many being certified as well. It’s important to do your research on any facility regarding training and qualifications. Pathways Home Health and Hospice is accredited by the ACHC, which also accredits hospitals. On top of providing compassionate hands-on care from the whole hospice care team, we teach caregivers how to best care for their loved one. Plus, RNs are available by phone 24×7 and can visit your loved one after office hours if needed. Many of our caregivers are fluent in a second language, too.
- Guilt: Many caregivers think they have to “do it all,” shouldering all the responsibility for the care of their loved one. This can lead to a lot of guilt when considering leaving your loved one with another caregiver while you care for yourself. But self-care is absolutely essential in this journey, so put aside the guilt and use that precious time to recharge your batteries so you can come back better than ever. And remember, respite care isn’t just for you: it’s for your loved one as well. They need a break and time to be on their own as well!
It’s important to realize you can’t do it all on your own. Your loved one’s symptoms will only worsen as they progress through hospice, and you need qualified care that can address those needs. You may feel that asking for help shows weakness or a lack of caring, but actually it’s the opposite that’s true, points out the National Institute on Aging. Asking for help reveals your inner strength, and it means you recognize your limits and when to seek out support.