Respite for Family Caregivers

nurse or helper in residential home giving food to old senior man

Being a family caregiver for a parent or spouse can be very stressful and over time, take a toll on the caregiver. Juggling tasks such as accompaniment to appointments, meal preparation, personal care, paying bills, care planning, and a multitude of other tasks, a typical caregiver can wear many hats. Approximately 1 in every 3 Canadians are family caregivers, and past research shows that a significant number of family caregivers are stressed and feel that their own health is being compromised due to the caregiving duties.

It is important for caregivers to take proper breaks, keep some form of their own normal routine, and keep doing the things that are important to them. All too often, family members are pushed to the breaking point, and decisions are delayed resulting in crisis situations. Here are some useful tips for ways to provide respite to the caregiving situation.

1. Take Time For Yourself

As a caregiver, having time for yourself is important to maintain your work/life balance. Taking time for yourself will also make you a better caregiver. Consider unwinding by doing some form of exercise, like yoga, jogging, or something else you might enjoy.

Another way to take time for yourself is to share the care responsibilities among other family members and/or friends and professionals. Do not feel it is your sole responsibility to do every single thing associated with the organizing, researching, providing, and monitoring of care for your loved one. Ask for help and develop a care team to share various tasks and responsibilities.

2. Consider Respite Care

If the workload is feeling a bit much, consider getting respite care. Respite care is temporary care provided to relieve the usual caregiver. Respite can take a few different forms. Many of the private care residences have furnished, short term stay suites for those seeking respite care or in transition from hospital to home. Residents staying in these short term stay suites can benefit from all of the services and care that the residence offers, such as meals, medication management, general oversight, and personal care.

Health & Home Care Society of BC operates the Family Respite Centre, a respite-only residence in Vancouver which offers short term stay rooms for those in transition or those needing to be taken care of while the primary caregiver is taking a break. It is not a large residence and they are often full, so it is a good idea to book early. One can be referred by Vancouver Coastal Health or can book privately directly with the residence.

Respite suites are a good option in cases where the primary caregiver just needs a few days of rest or perhaps is planning a short vacation with family or friends. They will have peace of mind that their loved one is being well taken care of during the break. A respite suite is also a good idea if a possible transition to a retirement residence is planned in the near future, as it would give the care receiver a chance to experience it firsthand without any obligation. Read further below for some tips on how to seek respite suites.

Another form of respite is having other caregivers come into your house so that you can have some time to yourself. These could be family members or paid caregivers. Having respite care come into the house is a good option in cases where the primary caregiver needs less than a day of separation and no overnight care is needed.

3. Support Groups

The people who will understand best with what you are going through will be others in the same position. If your loved one is suffering from a particular illness, go online, do some research, and see if there are any local support groups available. Many non-profit organizations that are associated with a particular illness or condition have regular support group meetings where family caregivers can go to obtain support and share learnings.


Things to Consider when Seeking Respite

There are a few factors to consider before you embark on a search for a short term stay room:

  • How long do you need it for? Think about the reason you’re seeking a respite suite and how many nights you are planning to have a break.
  • What are your loved one’s care needs or challenges?
    What level of care does your loved one need? This will determine the type of residence that you should seek when inquiring about short term stay rooms.
  • Is your loved one in need of assisted living care, or are there care needs more complex? Do they have cognitive or mobility impairments?
  • Are there other challenges such as incontinence, wandering, behavioural or other issues?

What is your Budget?
The fees for respite suites typically are stated on a per night basis, and generally will include 3 meals a day. Rates will vary depending on the type of care residence being sought.

Caring for loved ones can be tough for both the caregiver and the care receiver. It’s important to remember that in order to be a good provider, you also need to take care of yourself. Considering respite is an important part of being a good caregiver and achieving balance in your life.