Living Well:
Respite Care for Caregivers

Reprinted from PN July 2001
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From time to time we all need rest and "refreshment." This is why people take vacations. The time off is a breather—or respite—from daily work routines. The idea of respite care for caregivers came from this concept.

The February 2001 Living Well column provided some excellent insights into caregivers' challenging roles. All too often these individuals forget about their own needs when caring for family members or loved ones. These caregivers may feel a sense of guilt if they say they need time off.

Remember, other people in the household often may be able to take over when the primary caregiver needs a breather. Sometimes family members are not available, and community resources may be sought. At times, it is impossible to find help in the community.

Respite care does not always take place in a formal, institutional program. Brief periods of respite may be via taking an afternoon away from your responsibilities or finding a trained assistant to come to your home several days a week and assume some of the household chores or physical care.

When seeking helpers, know your specific requirements. If you need someone to help with housekeeping, make a list of the chores so you can go to an agency that provides housekeepers. For assistance with an SCI/D patient's personal-care needs, write down those requirements so you can find a provider through a home health agency.

Annual vacations are a good thing. This is the reasoning behind the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA's) respite-care program. It is the agency's way of providing institutionally based respite care to support people caring for veterans who need special attention at home.

Recognizing this need, Congress authorized VA to provide a respite program under Public Law 99-576, extended by Public Law 102-585. This allows respite care through VA for up to 30 days per year. VAMC directors can approve additional days.

This program giving caregivers rest and refreshment is based in a hospital so caregivers can be worry-free during that time. Veterans will receive nursing care around the clock.

Care is of limited duration and only for individuals with chronic illnesses and residing primarily at home. It is furnished to help veterans continue staying primarily at home. This hospital-based care, in a formal respite program, does not affect veterans' other eligibility criteria.

If you are a caregiver, know what you need—and ask VA for help. Requesting assistance is a key component to receiving it. Supporting your needs is critical to supporting your loved one's needs.

Medical Services became a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Veterans Benefits Department program in 1992, focusing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system's care and treatment of veterans with spinal-cord injury/disease (SCI/D). Dr. Henry R. Bodenbender is the program's director. Other staff members are associate directors Ann C. Adair, R.N.; Sharon Wagnitz, R.N.; and Lana Le, R.N. Medical Services' submissions for this column address SCI/D's effects on the body's systems and discuss general health issues related to these areas.


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Living Well:
Respite Care for Caregivers


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