What is Respite Care?

Annette Akerman, RN, Regional Director of Operations, The Alden Network discusses Respite Care and how it might be able to give caregivers a much needed break from caring for their loved ones and a chance to care for themselves.
What is Respite Care?
Annette Akerman, RN
Annette Akerman,RN is a registered nurse and regional director of operations for The Alden Network.

Melanie Cole (Host): If you’re a caregiver seeking short-term care for a loved one, if you are heading off for a vacation, need to run some errands, or simply need some alone time; respite care may be the answer for you. My guest today is Annette Akerman. She’s a registered nurse and Regional Director of Operations for the Alden Network. The Alden Network has nearly 30 short-term rehabilitation and post-acute care centers throughout Chicagoland and Southern Wisconsin. Annette welcome, and thanks for joining me today to talk about respite care. So, let’s start with the most important question. What is it?

Annette Akerman, RN (Guest): Well respite care provides short-term relief for caregivers and it can include three different types. The first type is in-home respite care services and that’s provided by a companion or a home care aid. And that type of care can include things such as bathing, dressing, light housekeeping and assistance with meals. The second type is adult daycare. This is where the person receives respite care usually in a care center environment with other seniors with planned activities throughout the day. And the third type is what we provide at most of our Alden locations which is short-term respite care in a rehabilitation skilled nursing facility or memory care center.

Melanie: So then let’s start with the respite care that is provided at your Alden locations so that would be a short-term kind of respite care. Explain that a little bit to the listeners.

Annette: Yes. So, we have three different types actually at Alden. And the first type is a short stay in one of our rehabilitation or skilled nursing facilities. Second is an assisted living community and the third would be in a secure memory care environment. And we have select memory care communities which are specialized for individuals with memory care needs and offer specialized programing, care and support for those people with memory care issues such as dementia and Alden has a few memory care communities that offer respite care in secure settings specializing in providing care to individuals with those memory care needs. And the type and location recommended depends on a person’s medical needs and what their loved ones want from respite care.

Melanie: So, if somebody is looking for select memory care communities offer you know that type of respite care; what is so special – what are the needs for a patient that might need extra care, memory care; what are some of those special needs, what are the benefits?

Annette: Well at our memory care settings we offer specialized programing and that specialized programing is broken down by the secure neighborhood which is based on the disease progression which is usually early stage, mid stage and end stage and some of those specialized programs include music therapy, aroma therapy, pet therapy, and things of that nature. So, it really gives an individualized touch to the patient.

Melanie: And you mentioned that it’s in a secure environment, I imagine for loved ones that’s a pretty important part.

Annette: Yes. Yes, and it also allows for the patient to come in and be up and about on the unit and still be safe and have the room to roam around.

Melanie: So, when do you feel that caregivers should look to respite care services? I mean do you have some red flags, some things that you tell people, if they are starting to have a little bit of caregiving burnout or they are starting to lose it a little?

Annette: Well it can be utilized at any time, but we find that most people use it for vacations, special events, weekend getaways. Ideally it should be utilized before the caregiver becomes exhausted or starts feeling overwhelmed. So, we do recommend that regular scheduled respite stays should be planned to avoid burnout and stress.

Melanie: So, it really does benefit not only the patient, but the caregiver because sometimes caregivers kind of lose themselves in this 24/7 caregiving cycle for someone that they love. Explain a little bit about how it benefits the caregiver, how they can really get a little bit more joy out of life, take a break and find time for themselves.

Annette: Sure. So, even a short-term break allows the caregiver to renew their energy, relieve stress, restore a sense of balance in their lives and they don’t have to worry about the safety of their loved one because they are being cared for in a safe environment. So, it provides renewal and relaxation. It can calm and improve the caregiver’s mood. It improves their energy and prevents fatigue and we all know that energy is essential to be effective, pleasure as well because even the caregivers deserve still to enjoy life because they are caring for the loved one 24/7, so it’s important that they get to enjoy life as well. And also, to confirm their identity and socialize with family and friends.

Melanie: One of the things I think caregivers would worry about as they listen to this; is their loved one. So how do patients benefit from this and if they are in memory care does it – is it too confusing and so then the caregivers worry they can’t take that break? How does that work?

Annette: Well overall, it is change of pace for the patient which can be very good for the patient and it’s also a safe environment when they come to one of our facilities and it provides socialization with others who are going through similar experience and they can socialize and participate in activities that have been developed with their specific needs. As far as memory care, we do our best to do an individualized assessment for the patient, so we are providing programing that is specific to their needs.

Melanie: That’s wonderful for both caregiver and patient. How much does respite care cost?

Annette: That varies. And there also may be grants through Senior Services in some counties. And they can call us at Alden for further direction in regard to those grants and we can help direct them into the right direction and they can call our Alden number at 1-800-291-5900.

Melanie: So, what can someone expect if respite care is arranged at a rehabilitation skilled nursing center or a memory care center, rather than at home or a senior daycare type of setting? Can they have visitors? What’s different?

Annette: Yes, absolutely they can have visitors, but when this is arranged, they can come in for a tour first and get to know the building and get to know the staff and the programming, so they can develop that level of comfort and then of course a tour helps to alleviate anxiety and they are able to ask specific questions as well.

Melanie: So, if someone is not in the memory care center; what can they expect from a stay at a rehabilitation or skilled nursing center? Are there activities and socialization? Tell us a little bit about it.

Annette: Yes, absolutely. So, first and foremost, what they can expect is a warm welcoming environment where everyone feels comfortable. Second, what we would do is look at any care needs that they might have and so would be an assessment with the nursing staff, so we can ensure to provide all of the necessary care including activities of daily living, medications, and any other medical care needs. The second is socialization. That is a priority and we do have an activity calendar and activity staff and again, we would do an assessment on the patient, so we can provide individual programming and activities for the patient, but if the patient isn’t someone who likes to socialize; we also have activities that they can do if they just want to be alone. We have free Wi-Fi throughout our buildings. We have iPads and laptops that they can check out. They can read books or play games and things of that nature.

Melanie: So, what should someone expect during a stay at a memory care center? What’s different between what you just described and the memory care area?

Annette: Again, a stay in a memory care center will be in a secure neighborhood. The resident can feel free to be up and about on the neighborhood and as I mentioned earlier; there is specialized programing in our memory care centers that is developed specifically to the appropriate level of the disease progression. We have programming built around the early, mid and end stage and as I mentioned earlier; some of those include music therapy, art therapy, aroma therapy and a dining program as well that includes a finger food extension menu and that’s just to mention a few.

Melanie: What do you want them to bring for a respite care stay?

Annette: Definitely comfortable clothes and shoes to walk around in especially if they can ambulate so they can walk through the building and they can walk to the dining room and to activities. But of course, if they prefer to eat in their room, we do offer several choices to accommodate their preferences. We also provide toiletries but if the patients have their own favorite items they would like to bring they are more than welcome to do that as well. If they would like to bring books or anything that they have as a hobby they can do that. And then we also encourage them to bring photos or any little items that may help to personalize their room while they are with us.

Melanie: So, Annette, can they receive other therapies if they were a home patient and they were getting physical therapy or occupational or speech therapy; can they get that while they are in respite care?

Annette: Depending on the length of the stay, we can certainly look into the benefits that they have that might cover those therapies and an individual assessment would be completed to ensure that every patient during their stay is meeting their highest practicable level of functioning.

Melanie: So, wrap it up for us. What would be someone’s next steps if they feel – if they are a caregiver and they feel they really need a little bit of a break or if they are the loved one of a caregiver that sees that this person possibly needs that break for any reason. What’s the next step?

Annette: I would encourage them to give us a call at the 1-800 number that I gave earlier and again that’s 1-800-291-5900 and then they can be directed to an appropriate location for them and then we would be more than happy to give information based on the facility that they would be more appropriate for and we would encourage them to come in for a tour and get more information.

Melanie: I really can’t emphasize enough how wonderful respite care can be for the person themselves and their caregivers and loved one. It’s such a well-earned break for caregivers from that day to day responsibility of caring for another person and it also provides a nice change of scenery for the person who is stuck at home most of the time. It really is a win-win for everyone. Thank you, Annette, so much for your time today. It was wonderful to learn about respite care and how helpful it can be for everyone involved. You’re listening to the Alden Network Podcast. For more information on respite care or any of our other services please visit www.thealdennetwork.com that’s www.thealdennetwork.com. Or to hear more podcasts in this series. Please visit www.thealdennetwork.com/podcast that’s www.thealdennetwork.com/podcast . This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.