Getting respite from the fulltime care of your parents can be extremely challenging. Most people who move their parents into their own home for care do so because they cannot afford other options, or because they are not satisfied with the quality of available nursing homes. The first thing to do is look for programs which can provide respite care to those who cannot afford to hire it:
- Check with your parents’ Medicare/Medicaid service representative to make sure you are utilizing all in-home care options available to them.
- Explore local social service programs
- Check with local churches (check with your parents’ church, too)
- Check churches and schools for youth volunteer programs
- Look into your county’s Department of Job and Family Services
- Also explore your local Center for Independent Living
- Inquire with local colleges which offer degrees in the fields of elder-care about interns (who work for free in order to list the experience on their resumes).
- Search online for additional programs in your city, county, or state.
Don’t be shy about asking other family members to do their share. There is absolutely no reason the entire burden should fall on you. However, if you have been uncomplainingly doing all the work for a while, these requests might take some persuasion. A graphic diary account of all the work you do in a week might help them to understand your situation. If they say they can’t because they work a job, point out that you are working a job, too – and you wish yours was paid like theirs! Prepare to be firm and repeat your request several times. Other tips for roping in their help:
- Schedule their help several weeks ahead to accommodate their work schedule.
- Suggest that they use half of their vacation days to visit you and take over care for a while – while you head out to visit friends or go on vacation with your spouse.
- If you must, point out how many days per year you care for your parents.
- Ask family members who live a couple hours or less away to schedule one day per week or a couple weekends per month to give you respite.
- If someone is reluctant to give you a day, ask for a few hours – every bit helps!
- Busy siblings with high-powered careers can pay for respite care workers, or hire a housekeeper to do the cleaning.
- Relatives can send their teenagers to spend quality time helping Grandma or Grandpa – a great opportunity to learn patience and responsibility (and gratitude for their health and youth!).
You might also find help from your own friends, who probably miss you:
- Ask them to visit you, and find activities that can include your parents.
- Your friends might also take turns giving you respite care one evening per week, so that you can go out with the rest of the gang for a meal or movie.
- Your parents might be less needy if you arrange a regular gathering of their own social circle to visit for cards, gossip, coffee and cookies, etc.
- Make clear to your spouse & kids that being home doesn’t make you sole housekeeper.
- Assign at least some regular chores to everyone – be prepared to stick to your guns!
- If your parents are able, assign them chores within their capacity. Contributing will make them feel better, and you’ll appreciate the break!
- Tell your kids to save themselves money and give you the best birthday/Mother’s or Father’s Day/Christmas gift ever: An evening of caring for your parents while you go on a date with your spouse or friends!
In general, if you ask a lot of people to contribute in specific, limited ways, you are more likely to succeed in getting the help you need. You should make sure you have at least one free hour with no interruptions per day; a several-hour break once or twice per week; a weekend off once per month; and a week (even two, if you can manage it) per year when you can spend most of your time on yourself.