Elderly caregivers need love, help and a break too

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You've probably heard stories about elderly caregivers who are so overworked and overwhelmed with the physical and mental energy required day in and day out, that they feel like they're on the cusp of a nervous breakdown themselves.

Some of these caregivers work very hard, in some cases 24/7 with no real break. There are three different types of caregivers.

1. Family caregivers. The first line of defense is a family member - dad taking care of mom, or vice versa. If one of the spouses has already passed, then the caregiving lands on the shoulders of the children. If they don't live in the area, there's a good chance the mother or father will relocate to where their children live.

2. Home health care. If mom can no longer take care of dad (or vice versa) and family members are not in the area, a local home health care company can provide the health services needed. (Other companies are available to provide seniors with non-medical home care only.)

Typically, one caregiver will be assigned to the elderly patient, which enables the caregiver to bond with a new patient and gain his or her trust.

If the caregiver is working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, it doesn't take long before the caregiver is in need of a two- or three-day break.

3. Skilled nursing care. By definition, a skilled nursing facility offers 24/7 care with two registered nurses on staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This ultimate level of care provides the best caregiver available.

If you have exhausted all your options and need someone to step in and help, a skilled nursing environment would be an excellent choice.

So, what happens when the caregiver has gone three or four weeks, or two to three months, without a break? At some point, caregivers will ultimately become ineffective because they're exhausted.

What has become an invaluable solution to this serious problem of caregiver burn-out, is respite care.

Here's how it works - it's very easy to understand:

When a sister, brother, son, daughter or any other family member takes on the full-time role of caregiver, they make a major commitment to providing any and all of what's needed to make their loved one comfortable and safe.

When the caregiver needs the break - and they will need one occasionally - it's up to the family, or whomever is overseeing the elderly patient, to have a back-up plan.

The caregiver gets a chance to relax and unwind while recharging the batteries. Once the respite break is complete, caregiver and elderly patient will be reunited and it will be business as usual until the next time.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. TheSeabrook.com

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