You’re stressed. Overwhelmed. Desperately in need of a vacation. “Look into respite care,” friends and family tell you. Respite care is temporary help for your caregiving duties. It can be someone who cares for your family member a few hours a week for several weeks. It can be a senior living facility that takes residents for two weeks to thirty days so you can travel or take a real break. It can be what keeps you from losing your job, your marriage, your mind. It’s a wonderful thing.
But if you’re like most caregivers, the process of researching respite care – what is it, who offers it, and how you pay for it, could very well be the thing that sends you over the edge. I need respite care from researching respite care! Click To Tweet
A Google search yields close to 4 million results. You start to click through them and you are prompted to fill out forms. You see a page with links to the states where you are looking for help. These links take you to more forms. You click on a site promising to find the help you need. It offers meaningful advice like make sure the respite care provider you hire is reputable. Really?! You see a link that says, “How to pay for respite care.” It’s broken. You are too. You give up.
It doesn’t need to be that way. You can find respite care when you need it. But here are two brutal realities you need to accept first:
- It takes time.
- Most of your research will need to be done via phone, not the Internet.
Now that you’ve accepted those truths, here is what you do:
- If you are in a pinch – maybe something came up at work and you need help now – start with friends and family. Remember all of those people who have offered to help? Call them. It may not be ideal. That’s okay. It takes a village, so use yours. The person you care for may not like it. The person you call on may not really like it. You may not like it. That’s okay. Handle this situation and when it’s over, start planning for next time. Caregiving: It takes a village, so use yours. Click To Tweet
- If you want a break for a few hours a day, consider an adult day care program. You can search for local programs on the National Adult Day Services Association website. Enter your street address and zip code and the database will return a list of local centers. Don’t panic if it doesn’t work the first time. Just try again. (I never get results the first time I search. I don’t know why. But I always get it to work the second time.) Narrow the list based on location and hours and then call and arrange a visit. You need to see the facility and meet the staff to determine if it’s the right solution. At the visit you can also find out if they know of any financial assistance programs and if they provide transportation to and from the program.
- If you are looking for a complete break for two weeks to thirty days or more, call some of the senior living centers in your community and ask, “Do you offer respite or temporary care? How much does it cost?” You can visit the websites but they won’t give you pricing or availability, so just call. It’s best to visit by yourself first. At that visit you can ask if they know of any financial assistance programs.
Paying for respite care
Financial assistance may be available but finding it takes some legwork. Again, phone calls will probably yield the best results. Start by calling your local council on aging. It may be called the agency on aging or the eldercare office. Tell them what you are looking for and then be prepared for them to send you a pile of confusing paperwork after your initial phone call. Or better yet, ask for an appointment (at their convenience) and go into the office. Plan double the time they tell you it will take. Smile, be patient and let them guide you through the options. Be sure to ask them about a 1915 waiver, offered through Medicaid.
If the person you are caring for is on hospice, you may be eligible for assistance via Medicare. Respite care is a service of hospice care. From the Medicare website:
If you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) AND meet all of these conditions, you can get hospice care:
- Your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) certify that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less).
- You accept palliative care (for comfort) instead of care to cure your illness.
- You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.
- Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) – not a nurse practitioner that you’ve chosen to serve as your attending medical professional – can certify that you’re terminally ill and have a life expectancy of 6 months or less.
If the person you are caring for is a veteran, they may be eligible for financial assistance. Again, the easiest thing to do is book an appointment with your local Veteran Service Officer and have him or her guide you through the process. Call your town or city hall to find out who that person is.
Finding respite care is worth the effort. You need and deserve a break. Good luck, and if any of you have had used respite care, leave a comment and tell us your process.
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