January 3rd, 2011 at 7:46 pm
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Caregiver Respite Decisions and Influences

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

According to a New York Times article published on December 31, 2010, “88 percent of family caregivers never get a break,” as in 88 percent of the reported 28 million U.S. caregivers. Respite, sweet respite, wherefore art thou, for family caregivers to elders 75 years of age and older?

Individual caregiver views about respite may be influenced by any number of factors, not limited to the elder’s, caregiver’s and/or family’s financial ability to pay for respite services.

  1. Religious Beliefs - For some caregivers and other individuals, being of service to others in need may be firmly rooted in sincerely held religious or spiritual beliefs that may be hard to shake. If the caregiver is a member of a formal religious community, other members of the religious community may reinforce the family caregiving decision as the “right” eldercare choice.
  2. Family culture or values may be the prevailing influence for other caregivers. Some families may expect it, even as some family members choose to go-along to get-along through countless generations of elders. While on their deathbeds, some elders have been known to coerce promises from other younger family members to care for another chronically ill or otherwise physically and/or mentally disabled family member. Some families are huge on maintaining a certain public image against all odds, even.
  3. Guilt can be a powerful influence in life decisions for some individuals and/or families. When guilt takes root in an individual or a family, some caregivers resentfully go through the caregiving motions – kicking and screaming all the way. In caregiving, guilt easily becomes a two-edged sword. Guilt works against the elder, the rest of the family, and, the caregiver who may feel “put-upon.” If guilt is, or, has propelled you to become a caregiver to an elder, don’t be surprised if the entire caregiving experience is depressing on a good day, and infuriating on other days.
  4. Diminished public trust in a few eldercare providers based on limited, isolated, and, reasonably high-profile news about unethical direct care workers who have physically abused some elders in their care. On the other hand, some who have physically abused elders have been long-term family [friends] who were hand-picked by the family’s primary unpaid caregiver. Whether family or agency, there are no guarantees in life. Use your best judgment and do extensive independent research prior to choosing a paid eldercare provider for your loved one. Don’t allow a few bad apples to taint how you view all eldercare agency providers.

If you are so inclined, the best place for caregivers to start looking at our respite options may be to consider first what all may be shaping how we view taking a well-deserved break from our hard-hitting days of care. What’s holding you back?

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