August 15th, 2012
Planning vacations around your busy schedule
By Dwayne J. Clark
We all want, and even need, a chance to get away from it all and recharge our energies. A summer vacation is a rite of modern life, but for the nearly 10 million Americans who are currently caring for both children and an elderly parent - the so-called Sandwich Generation - the idea of going on vacation offers up little more than a stressful dilemma: How can the family possibly take a trip when an aging parent is not up for travelling or for staying home alone?
The large majority of these families simply don’t leave. Instead, they opt to survive another year of stress and the daily grind without taking a vacation. And they take their chances on burning out and becoming ill-equipped to properly care for their aging parents and even their own children.
Some caregivers might have the luxury of calling on a sibling or another family member to step in and care for their elderly parent. Or the family might split up during the summertime, with one parent (or step parent) taking the kids on a trip while the other stays home with Grandma or Grandpa. Others will look into hiring outside help to provide round-the-clock, in-home care, but this option can be so expensive (and sometimes difficult to find, especially if the senior has dementia or mobility issues) that some families may only have enough funds left over to enable a short, local getaway.
Many, however, will simply stay put, denying themselves a much-needed emotional breather and foregoing the important parent/child bonding opportunities that a vacation provides.
Fortunately, there is a solution available for these families: respite care. A relatively new but increasingly popular program offered by some assisted living communities, respite care allows families to book their loved one for a stay of a few days or even several weeks at a residential care facility. Of course, not all respite care programs are created equal. Some are better than others, but in the ideal situation, this is what you can expect.
Respite care acts as the perfect blend of luxury hotel and home-health care, providing just the right mix of amenities and services for the aging, sometimes ailing, senior.
Consider the following benefits that top-notch respite care offers:
1) Guests get personal care. On-staff nurses and/or care personnel at assisted living communities are available 24/7 to monitor the health and well-being of respite care guests, dispense medication on schedule, help with bathing and other hygiene matters, and ensure that they stay on target with all required exercises and therapies.
2) Luxury. Respite guests stay in elegant, well-appointed apartments with comfortable beds, sitting areas, television, phone, reading materials, and Internet access. Amenities are similar to what’s found in nice hotels. Some communities are even pet-friendly, allowing seniors to bring their dogs and take them on walks in sunny courtyards and manicured gardens.
3) Great food. Families don’t have to be concerned that their loved one might be eating a TV dinner or hot dogs and beans for the fourth time in two days. Respite guests - like full-time residents - eat fresh-from-the-kitchen, nutritious meals (and snacks) prepared by an on-site chef and served in a well-appointed dining area (or in their room, if preferred).
4) It’s engaging. Unlike with a home-health care arrangement, a respite guest can interact with other seniors and make new friends, and he or she can participate in any number of social, cultural and recreational activities that are offered. Or they can simply enjoy themselves in a sunroom or parlor, playing cards and games with other residents.
5) It’s affordable. Despite all these amenities, respite care is almost always less expensive than round-the-clock, home-health care, and it’s typically priced at an all-inclusive daily rate, with no extras charged for meals, activities and personal care. Think of it as a luxury cruise without having to get aboard a ship.
Keep in mind that setting up a short-term stay for your loved one is not quite as easy as calling up a hotel a week ahead of time and reserving a room. Prior to a stay, a respite guest must provide a physician’s report, take a TB test (in some states), and undergo a nurse assessment.
The family also needs to prepare themselves and their aging loved one for the short-term stay. The family should take time to do their research on the communities in their area based on such criteria as reputation, number of staff, quality of care and activities, and experience with residents who have similar health concerns, and then take a tour.
No matter how nice the community, though, some seniors will balk at the idea of respite care, a fact that can lead to anxiety for them and guilt for the rest of the family. Administrators at senior living communities suggest the adult caretaker bring their parent in for lunch, a tour and a prearranged chance to get to know some friendly residents.
For the senior, a short-term stay offers a unique vacation. They, too, take on the stress that comes from being part of a busy household with overworked caregivers, so this break provides them a chance to relax and have time to themselves in new surroundings, enjoy a bit of pampering, make friends, take up a new activity, or explore a hobby that they used to enjoy.
In most cases, the family members report back that their elderly parent is much happier and content after a respite stay.