Aging Well: Respite a necessity for caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month

The Caregiver Support Program, operated through the Northwest Colorado Options for Longterm Care, provides financial help for adult day programs. For more information, call Nancy McStay at 824-5646 or, to request an application, call 877-963-8731.

A support group for caregivers and family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia meets from 3 to 4:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month in the Steamboat VNA lounge. For more information, call Barbara Bronner at 879-8942.

For detailed caregiving information and support, including ways to connect with other caregivers, visit the National Family Caregivers Association at www.thefamilycare... or call 1-800-896-3650.

Respite resources

The Rollingstone Respite House in Steamboat has suites and services available to accommodate overnight guests with disabilities or chronic conditions. The service provides individuals home comforts in a safe environment while their caregivers are away. For more information, call Shannon Winegarner at 871-7626.

The Aging Well Adult Day Program at Rollingstone will be opening in January. The program will be available on a half- or full-day basis. Fees, though not confirmed, likely will be between $70 and $85 for a full day. The adult day program at The Haven in Hayden is open and spots are available. The cost is $68 for a full day. Both programs will accept Medicaid. For more information about Aging Well adult day programs, call program director Karen Burley at 875-1888.

Caring for a family member with a disability or chronic condition does not come with a road map. Individuals often assume caregiving responsibilities without knowing what tomorrow or the next day will bring.

Intently focused on another person’s needs, they tend to forget their own.

Before long, they may buckle under the weight of stress; becoming sick more often, depressed or bitter as they struggle to balance life and caregiving while lamenting freedoms they used to enjoy.

This situation can catch up with a caregiver who over-estimates the duties they can carry while under-estimating their need for breaks or respite.

“Respite is not a luxury,” said Barbara Bronner, who leads a support group for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. “If someone wants to be there for a loved one for a duration, they really need respite.”

More than 50 million people care for chronically ill, disabled or elderly family members annually, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Studies have shown these caregivers are at a higher risk for chronic conditions, depression and anxiety than non-caregivers.

The risk of illness among caregivers has helped spawn a spectrum of support services. Among these are programs that care for older adults in home-like settings while caregivers take a breather.

Local caregivers and care recipients now can take advantage of overnight respite and adult day programs.

The Rollingstone Respite House in Steamboat Springs has cozy suites available to accommodate individuals whose primary caregivers are out-of-town or need time to re-energize.

A renovated home, Rolling­stone includes a kitchen, dining room and other comfortable common areas. Professional staff makes sure guests receive meals, medications and help with other needs that will make their stay safe and enjoyable.

The Aging Well Adult Day Program at Rollingstone, which opens in January, will provide similar care, as well as engaging activities, on a half- or full-day basis.

While this may seem good to caregivers, the deep commitment they have to their loved ones can make leaving their care to someone else, even for a short time, difficult.

It’s important to realize that seeking respite through a reputable program does not change a caregiver’s commitment and will not be harmful to the care recipient, Bronner said.

“If someone is in a warm, supportive environment, I think that is appropriate,” she said. It won’t be detrimental at all to not have the primary caregiver 24/7.”

Power to choose

Caring for a person with a chronic or degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s disease, while trying to work, attend to family, finances and other responsibilities, can make a caregiver feel like their life is out of control.

Caregiver support groups such as the National Family Caregivers Association emphasize that while caregivers cannot control certain situations, they do have the power to choose how they deal with their circumstances.

Recognizing their strengths and limitations and considering how respite and other support ultimately will benefit the person they care for are among the first steps.

“Adequate help for a primary caregiver can do a lot to postpone the need for a nursing home or eliminate it,” Bronner said.

At first, Craig resident Sandy Beran was hesitant to enroll her father, who is losing his eyesight, in the Aging Well Adult Day Program at The Haven in Hayden.

She thought it might be selfish, but then she realized she would never care for someone else the way she was caring — or not caring — for herself.

After several weeks, her father began to look forward to his days at the program, where caregiving staff help him work on his memoirs, take walks and engage him in discussions about current events.

“It’s not just for my convenience but for his benefit,” Beran said.

Respite has allowed Beran to work part-time and enjoy friends and activities such as hiking and tubing the Yampa River — all with the piece of mind of knowing her father is not only safe, but happy.

“I did need that relief. I did need that time off,” she said.

— Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tmanzanares@nwcovna.org. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit www.agingwelltoday.com or call 871-7606.

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