Popular public children’s show Sesame Street opened with a song asking “who are the people in your neighborhood?”
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
They’re the people that you meet each day!
As the show’s host walks down Sesame Street singing, he encounters Muppets who serve as a postal carrier, firefighter, baker, teacher, barber, bus driver, dentist, physician, grocer, shoemaker, garbage collector, and so on. The purpose of the song is to introduce young people and their families to the people in the neighborhood who can help. Neighborhoods grow and thrive when there are specific people set apart for specific tasks, who everyone knows they can count on for goods and services.
The Hospice Care Neighborhood
In the final season of life, caregiving often looks less like the complex web of neighborhood or community relationships needed to sustain daily activities, like those portrayed on Sesame Street. In the case of illness and injury, hospice and palliative care providers are often invited in to help provide comfort care and support for those who are sick and their loved ones.
For those who suffer illness or injury and receive hospice care benefits, “the people in your neighborhood” become quite concentrated primarily to loved ones. While hospice and palliative care patients no longer engage with the complexities of the neighborhood, their primary caregivers (usually a close family member) maintain bridges between both the focused needs of their suffering loved one and personal webs of daily work and social life.
Balancing Life as a Caregiver
Oftentimes, the balance between the pull of professional, personal, and caregiving demands stretches thin to the point there is very little proper balance. Work responsibilities and social engagements frequently suffer for full-time caregivers, leaving them drained of energy and disconnected from that which provided the sustaining energy needed for ongoing caregiving responsibilities at home. Organizational tips for caregivers can help you effectively manage caregiving responsibilities and the rest of life — which can be rather difficult at times. The good news is that there is hope to regain this essential work-life balance. Hospice and palliative care encourages primary caregivers to seek respite care when appropriate, which ultimately benefits not only the caregiver, but the loved ones for whom they care.
What Is Respite Care?
Short-term respite care is an opportunity for primary at-home caregivers to take a break from caregiving responsibilities, leaving their loved one in the expert care of a hospice professional or at a certified hospital, nursing facility, or other inpatient care center staff. The center where a loved one stays will provide for a patient’s medical needs, hygiene maintenance, nutrition, and regular socialization so that primary caregivers can do the same on their own time.
Respite care is available for caregivers who have work or personal responsibilities to tend or even simply to take a vacation, whether it is a stay-at-home or out-of-town. In fact, respite care is so important that it is frequently covered by insurance and even Medicare for a certain number of periods throughout the course of a year.
Selfless, Not Selfish
Many caregivers feel hesitant about leaving their loved one in the care of another. After all, a primary caregiver knows medication schedules, food preferences, toileting patterns, and myriad preferences, peccadilloes, and personal joys in ways that no one else does. It’s true that leaving a loved one in respite care for a period of time can initially feel selfish, especially since the caregiver intuitively knows best how to care for their person than anyone else. Yet, it is even more selfless to seek after times of renewal and refreshment while caregiving.
Continuous caregiving without breaks can result in irritation, frustration, and even sloppy caregiving. The most loving and attentive caregiver can forget medications, sleep through a night call for a toileting run, occasionally miss the need for change bed linens, and even simply serve a meal with less enthusiasm and grace than usual. A brief time away can restore a caregiver to former attentiveness, energy, and loving care.
Kind, Not Cruel
Oftentimes when children are left with a babysitter or in daycare, they may fuss or cry over being left. Of course well-loved people want to be with those who care for them as often as possible! Yet, the same parents who experience tears in the leave-taking might peek through a window not even twenty minutes later and find their child happily engaging their new surroundings and connecting with others. Those who enter into respite care facilities often have similar experiences. People are flexible so long as their environment meets all of their basic needs: that the space is clean, secure and predictable, with good food and proper medication available, and staffed with warm, caring, responsible people.
Caregivers might feel better and help their loved ones transition into brief periods of respite care if they keep an instruction sheet to leave with the patient. Keep a written schedule for about a week, marking down daily activities, patterns, medication needs, food preferences, and the things that seem to make a patient both comfortable and happy. Then, distill that sheet into one document with a general schedule and notes for others about a loved one’s preferences.
Does he especially enjoy vanilla yogurt with berries at each meal? Does she function better if she receives words of encouragement, hand-holding, or a hug after successful taking medication? Does he need an occasional conversation with opportunities to remember his time of service during the war to feel settled and connected? It is a kind thing for loved ones to keep track of those preferences and it is similarly a kind thing for caregivers to trust that respite care can provide what is needed during short break periods.
Some full-time caregivers find that they “feel bad” for “feeling good.” After all, a loved one in hospice care rarely, if ever, gets a break from their illness or injury. Yet, hospice patients feel at their best when their caregiver functions at optimal capacity. Supporting the caregiver also supports everyone else around them. Respite care supports primary caregivers in pursuing professional or personal needs so that they can return to their loved ones full of life and renewed energy. There is little better for patients that a fully charged, attentive caregiver.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice For More Information on Respite Care
For more information on the benefits of respite care for caregivers, please contact Harbor Light Hospice for a free, confidential, and comprehensive consultation by giving us a call or sending a message online. Respite care is very versatile and has many benefits for both the caregivers and their loved ones.