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Senior Care Essentials: Making the Right Choice in Respite Care

Making the Right Choice in Respite CareCaregivers tend to be very dedicated to caring for others, typically an older parent or disabled member of the family, but they often do not do so well in caring for themselves.  It is not that caregivers do not need at least a bit of help themselves, but it can be a very conflicted issue for a caregiver to ask for help.  It may stir up guilt about not caring for mom or dad or inadequacy at not being able to do it all.  And it is not that caregivers are alone.  They have other siblings, they have friends or neighbors, and they also have respite care available to help.

Respite care is not just one type of service, it is a whole continuum of in home care services as well as out-of-home services available in most communities.  For at home care, respite care can provide a needed break for the caregiver who needs to also work a day job, run their own personal or household errands or simply have some time to recharge.  Family, friends or other volunteers can be crucial in giving this time to the caregiver as well as providing stimulation, conversation or some fresh energy to care for the receiver of care.  Personal care or skilled care providers also can assist with the “heavy lifting” like activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, toileting and more.

Area residential care facilities can provide an even wider range of support where caregivers can drop mom or dad for short breaks, overnight care, or short intervals to cover vacation time.  For more comprehensive needs of those who need help with ADLs, there are facilities in most communities for adult day care that may be a full 9 to 5 or 7 to 7 to help with caregivers who also have work responsibilities.

If you are looking to recruit an individual who will be coming to assist in senior care for mom or dad in the home, be sure to ask for references.  Also be clear about services you expect, make certain of compensation (and no prepayments), and even consider a background check so that everyone has peace of mind.  If you are going though an agency, go through the same process as well as ask about bonding and other assurances you and your loved one will be secure.

If you will be looking to a facility with its own personnel, you should ask about:

    • their hiring criteria,


    • skill levels, certifications, training of personnel,


    • how hands on caregivers are supervised,


    • how emergencies are handled and who the providers are,


    • any other services (e.g., meals, transportation, entertainment, etc.), and


    • payment terms.


And you may ask to spend an afternoon or a day at the facility to observe how well they deliver on their promises.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of caregivers in order to really assess if the people in place are engaged in the service they provide.  People who like what they do will do a better job than those who just have a job.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to Read more about Our Story and Charlotte’s mission.


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