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Respite Care: Tips to Prepare Substitute Caregivers - Aging Wisely

If you read our last post on respite care options you know that there are several options for those times when you need a break or have conflicting demands as a caregiver. How do you make the respite experience go as smoothly as possible for you and your loved one? How do you ensure it really is a break and not a series of phone calls and worries?

Here are some tips about how you can prepare to have the best respite care experience possible:

• Organize your loved one’s records: health history, medication list, doctors and other providers, key contacts and vital information. This is helpful for you as a caregiver in many situations, but will be vital to communicate to whoever is caring for your loved one in your absence. Ensure important documents such as advance directives are accessible as well.

• Consider the what ifs…if you serve as your loved one’s sole POA/Healthcare Surrogate, can you be reached in case of an emergency/decision? This is something to consider in initial planning as well, as there may be benefits to having a secondary decision maker. Consult with your attorney. Make sure providers understand who can make decisions and have copies of documents.

• Prepare some information that will help the substitute caregivers to maintain routines. What is your loved one’s typical schedule? Favorite foods? Likes and dislikes? Behavioral patterns? Comforts?

• Give substitute caregivers who do not have a history with your loved one some background information. Tell them a little bit about your loved one. (For family members helping out but who are not there on a regular basis, share recent changes and plan some overlap so that they have a chance to adjust.)

• Test the waters. If you are going to use adult day care or facility-based care, do a trial run while you are in town or for a short period if possible. For home care, give yourself a small break while caregivers stay with your loved one before taking a long trip or trying many hours.

• Consider the “triage” plan if something goes wrong. If you are going far away or may be hard to reach, can you plan to have another relative handle immediate needs? Would you benefit from having a geriatric care manager to check in on things while you are gone? Remember that if you bring in a privately-hired caregiver, you won’t have agency oversight, supervision or substitutes if something goes wrong.

• Let go (easier said than done). No one is likely to provide the care you do for your loved one, but it is vital to get a break so you can continue providing that great care. Do it in a way you are comfortable with and start slow, but you will have to relinquish some control.

• Acknowledge the benefits. We have reiterated the benefits to you as a caregiver, which therefore benefit your loved one. But, sometimes there are other unexpected benefits. Your loved one really starts to like the home caregiver you brought in and now you have someone you can count on for ongoing needs. Your sister who comes to stay understands better what your day-to-day is like, easing your relationship. Your Mom feels like she had a mini-vacation at the Assisted Living and is worn out from attending non-stop activities.

Come back to visit us for more eldercare tips and advice for caregivers (or check us out on Facebook and Twitter)!

Aging Wisely helps family caregivers identify solutions on a range of issues. Regarding respite care, we can help you determine the best options, identify programs to help, prepare for transitions and oversee care while you are away. We have helped many families by “filling in” to check in on loved ones in facilities or with home care during a caregiver’s trip. Many times families decide to have us continue some oversight when they are back in town as they appreciate the professional consultation and additional advocacy. Contact us if you need to talk to someone about eldercare options in Florida and beyond.

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