Why Putting Off Respite Care Hurts Caregivers and Their Loved Ones

Why Putting Off Respite Care Hurts

Today, respite care offers busy and often overstressed family caregivers the opportunity to relax, decompress and re-energize while their loved ones receive professional care. Respite care also provides an ideal caregiving solution for loved ones when caregivers need to be away for business or vacation. 

Specifically, respite care provides family caregivers with needed “down time” to pursue personal interests and activities while their loved ones receive quality care and support in a secure, nurturing environment. Respite care affords family caregivers valuable time off to “recharge their batteries” so that they can continue to offer the best of care to their loved ones.

“Unfortunately, many family caregivers today ignore or put off taking advantage of the multiple benefits of respite care for a variety of reasons,” says Susan Irrgang, RN, LNHA, Executive Director at Saunders House in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

“To borrow an appropriate analogy, there is a reason why flight attendants always instruct us to put our own oxygen masks on first before attempting to assist a child or other loved one who needs help. This same logic holds true for at-home caregivers who have the challenging responsibility of caring for family members with various conditions and disabilities. There is truth in the fact that when your own needs are taken care of, the person you care for benefits as well.” 

Common Reasons Why Caregivers Put Off Respite Care

Susan adds, “Oftentimes, caregivers wrongly dismiss the importance of their own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being due to feelings of personal guilt, inadequacy, concern about the quality of care their loved one might receive elsewhere and how it might look to others. Sadly, this mindset tends to be self-defeating and often results in both the caregiver and their loved one suffering more.”

The Family Caregiver Alliance article, “Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers,” offers further insight into why caregiver self-care is so important and why caregivers often ignore their own physical and emotional health.

As the article notes, “Many times, attitudes and beliefs form personal barriers can stand in the way of caring for yourself. Not taking care of yourself may be a lifelong pattern, with taking care of others an easier option. However, as a family caregiver, you must ask yourself, ‘What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill? If I die?”

Some important questions they say caregivers should ask themselves include:

  • Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
  • Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
  • Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
  • Do you feel you have to prove that you are worthy of the care recipient's affection? Do you do too much as a result? 

Some of the most common obstacles to pursuing self-care are also identified in the article, such as:

  • I am responsible for my parent's health.
  • If I don’t do it, no one will.
  • If I do it right, I will get the love, attention, and respect I deserve.
  • Our family always takes care of their own.
  • I promised my father I would always take care of my mother.

The article concludes that, “because we base our behavior on our thoughts and beliefs, attitudes and misconceptions like those noted above can cause caregivers to continually attempt to do what cannot be done, to control what cannot be controlled. The result is feelings of continued failure and frustration and, often, an inclination to ignore your own needs.”

The Life Renewing Benefits of Respite Care for Caregivers 

The benefits of respite care are well documented by leading healthcare authorities. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association® advises that it is important for caregivers to minimize their own levels of physical and emotional stress in order to provide better care for their loved ones. They recommend respite care as a valuable tool that can:

  • Enable caregivers to take care of themselves. As their loved one’s needs increase, caregivers often have less time to devote to their own well-being. Sadly, their own physical and mental health often decline. Respite care gives caregivers additional time to exercise, eat healthier and get the sleep they need. 
  • Provide caregivers time to focus on relationships. Caregivers typically have less time for continuing their personal relationships as a result of their caregiving duties. Respite care enables caregivers to spend more time with their spouses, children, relatives and friends who may sometimes feel ignored due the challenging caregiving role. 
  • Create more time for caregivers to continue hobbies and passions. Busy caregivers also tend to put their favorite interests and activities on hold. Respite care can help them to renew these personal interests, which can increase their happiness, improve their mood and help restore their zest for life.
  • Offer caregivers peace of mind. Knowing that their loved one is in a secure, professional environment where they are well cared for also helps to reduce caregiver stress and reinforces to caregivers that they made the right decision for themselves and their loved ones.

According to Susan, “Caregivers who have used respite care have called it a ‘personal life-saver.’ Indeed, it can be liberating by renewing and refreshing your life while also improving your emotional balance and sense of personal freedom, purpose and optimism.

“As a caregiver, it is important for you to always remember that your life is of equal value. You deserve a high quality of life, too. And you owe it to yourself as well as to your loved one to remain as healthy, happy and capable as possible. Respite care exists to help you achieve just that.”

Respite Care at Saunders House – Quality Care for Your Loved One, a Healthful Break for You.

At Saunders House, we understand the difficulties that may arise when caring for a loved one at home. We also understand that there are times that you won’t be available to deliver that care because of vacations, business trips or simply the need to take a relaxation break. 

Loved ones using our respite care services are cared for by a team of compassionate professionals and are encouraged to take advantage of the lifestyle offered at Saunders House that includes our daily activities and special events.

Remember, it is never selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver – it’s actually an important part of the job.

We also invite you to stay current on senior health and senior care topics by viewing the latest articles on our website.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.


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