2/10/2022 | By John Levan

Caregiving can be challenging, draining the caregiver’s emotional resources. We look at five benefits of respite care for those attending to the needs of loved ones.

In 2010, our then 32-year-old daughter started having issues with her vision and walking ability. Soon she needed a walker and eventually a wheelchair. Today, MS has taken away the use of her arms and legs, meaning she needs to have someone with her constantly. My wife and I provide that care because we love her. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Our story is not as unusual as it sounds. According to an updated report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 1 in 5 adults, or 53 million adult Americans, are now unpaid family caregivers. Many of these caregivers are being pushed to their limits with responsibilities similar to those we encounter almost every day.

Caring for an elderly or disabled loved one is demanding, and few can handle it alone. Unfortunately, many wait until they are exhausted or in failing health themselves before seeking help. And when they do, that help often comes in the form of respite care.

What is respite care?

Respite care is temporary relief for a primary caregiver, allowing them to take a break from the demands of caregiving. It can occur in the home, at an adult day-care center, or a residential facility offering overnight stays. Although respite care is typically short-term and temporary, it can be scheduled weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

What are the primary benefits of respite care for a caregiver?

Caring for an older adult or someone with a disability can turn into a full-time job with little time for activities they enjoy. Many caregivers feel they can’t take time off because they would worry about the care their loved ones are receiving. But knowing that they are leaving them in the hands of professionals can result in a much-needed, relaxing break.

Here are five of the many benefits of respite care:

1. You’ll get some guilt-free relaxation.

When you care for someone who needs full-time help, you might not have time to unwind or do something you enjoy. Respite care offers a break in the day so you can do something that helps you feel refreshed. You can do anything from taking a long walk to taking a long nap.

Doing something relaxing could prevent burnout, exhaustion, or even depression. As you take a break, your body fights off the toxins that can cause depression, allowing you to return to caregiving with a clear mind and an improved outlook.

2. You get an escape from feelings of isolation.

Caregiving can cause you to retreat from social interactions with everyone except your senior loved one. Depending on the mental state of the person you are caring for, you may be getting a minimum of social interaction each day, and this withdrawal and lack of interaction could push you toward a mental and emotional breakdown without you being aware of it.

Related: The challenges of caregivers in rural communities

Finding time to be with your friends and family is essential to your mental well-being. And respite care will allow you to have time for people your age and things like vacations, dinners, and sporting events. You will avoid those feelings of isolation and improve your mental health.

3. Respite care could prevent you from developing bad habits.

When family caregivers are overworked, they can become overstressed. Sometimes they turn to smoking, drinking, drugs, and other harmful habits as a way of managing their stress. Respite care provides an opportunity for caregivers to take a break and focus on other stress-reducing habits like getting in shape, learning a second language, journaling, or starting a new hobby.

4. You’ll get re-charged.

It can be difficult to conjure up the energy for a day of caregiving. Respite care can re-energize you when it becomes next to impossible by giving you a break you so desperately need. Respite care can re-charge you whenever you feel as if you have been drained of energy and emotion.

5. It reduces the friction between the caregiver and the one being cared for.

Caregivers and their loved ones can often grow impatient with one another after spending so much time together. When you hire respite care, you can explore other interests while your loved one spends time with someone other than you. These breaks can cut the tension and stop the friction that might have been brewing between the two of you for some time.

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.