What does caregiver respite look like?

By Wendy Johnstone
October 30, 2015

This quote by Silver Donald Cameron captures the incredibly vital yet unrecognized role of family caregivers:

“If Canada’s health-care system were a plant, family caregivers would be its roots—fragile, vital and invisible. The part we see—branches, leaves and flowers—is the apparatus of doctors, nurses, clinics, labs and hospitals. But the “visible” health-care system has always been supplemented by the invisible support of home caregivers. We rely more heavily on those caregivers with every passing year. We do very little to provide them with support, recognition or respite.”

In the newest report by the Office of the Seniors Advocate in BC (September 2015), deep concerns are expressed for distressed caregivers.  The report highlights 29% of BC caregivers are in distress, one of the highest reported rates in Canada and 54% of caregivers would benefit from respite services including an adult day program, home support or respite bed.

In the publication, “This Day is for ME: Caring for the Caregivers”, respite care is defined as, “the provision of short-term and/or temporary relief to those who are caring for family members or loved ones who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home.”

Respite looks and feels different for all caregivers.  For you, it might be a chance to get out to be physically active or engage in a favourite hobby on a regular basis. Someone else might see respite as might be formalized and provided by Home and Community Care every Wednesday.  For others, it is attended a virtual or in-person support group or an education webinar or session.  Regardless if you are caring for a partner or spouse, aging parent, child or friend, respite is critical to a caregiver’s well-being – physically, mentally and emotionally.

What Are My Options for respite?

It’s important to know define what respite means to you.  Making a list of every type of activity (yes, even just sitting looking out the window!) that gives you relief from your caregiving role is a great place to start.  Don’t worry about setting limitations to that list.  Once you’ve listed all the possibilities, write out what would need to happen to make each activity a possibility.  It will be become clear through the process which options are most accessible and feasible.  It doesn’t mean you abandon the other options.  Perhaps you just need a little more time to figure out logistics.

If you are looking for respite at home or to have the person you are caring for stay at a designated facility, your first step is calling the Case Manager assigned to the person you are caring for.  Find more information on eligibility criteria, arranging respite and costs.

The Family Caregivers of BC have a variety of support groups across the province.  You can find a list at http://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/support/family-caregiver-groups/.

There are a variety of webinars available to family caregivers through The Caregiver Network, a National resource at http://thecaregivernetwork.ca/ 

You can sign up to receive their newsletter as well as to take their webinars, the majority of which are free for family caregivers.

Although sometimes it feels too difficult to take a break or perhaps guilt creeps into the equation, finding a way to recharge your batteries and give yourself what you need allows you to care for longer and to stay healthier.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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