Respite Plan Offers Ideas for Caregivers

June 29, 2016


As Terri Igleheart shared in a previous blog, Palmer Home caregivers do all the things other parents do—the work is just multiplied by 8! When you take into account the fact that children often arrive with physical, educational, emotional and spiritual delays resulting from their past, the sheer volume of work in a 24/7 caregiving job can be overwhelming.

For years Palmer Home has recognized the strain placed on our caregivers and put into place a plan to care for them. Our system allows for caregivers to work for four consecutive weeks and rest for the following week. Our trained respite caregivers enter the cottage during the rest week and maintain the children’s routines while our full-time caregivers take a much needed break.

Very often our caregivers spend this respite week at “the Ranch”, where Palmer Home provides their housing and accommodations. Other times, this week provides a chance for travel or time to visit with family. It’s the caregivers’ week to spend however they desire.

For foster families and grandparent caregivers, a regularly occurring week away from it all may sound like a dream come true, or more likely, a far-fetched dream. With the pressures of caring for your family added to financial and logistical concerns, escaping for a week feels impossible. Yet the strain and stress of caring for children who often have special needs following traumatic experiences can take its toll on anyone.

The term “respite care” has long been applied to the caregivers of Alzheimer or special needs patients. Recent years have finally seen the term applied to foster and grandparent caregivers. Caregivers who take a break – whether for just an hour, a day or even a whole week—have more to give to their families when they return compared to when they are exhausted and running on fumes.

Start Early

For new foster families, or for grandparents who have recently taken over caring for their grandchildren, we encourage you to start looking for opportunities for respite care as early as possible. Foster families can work with their foster agency to find trained caregivers willing to lend a hand for a few hours, or even a weekend. Grandparents can look within their family, their church, or their community of trusted adults to provide this  needed time for rest. If the children in your home have special needs, work with your respite caregivers to make sure they receive the training needed to provide good care.

Ask for Help

For you, perhaps  respite care looks more like having someone mow your lawn, bring you a meal once a week (or once in a while) or clean your house. Often friends, co-workers, and family members do want to help but simply aren’t sure how to offer. Think of the tasks that cause you the most stress or keep slipping through the cracks, and the next time a friend asks how they can help, share a couple of items from that list.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who care for you!

Start Simple

Sending Palmer Home caregivers to the Ranch makes sense for us because it’s a property we already own. It’s built into our plan of caring for children and for their caregivers. But your respite care doesn’t have to be a week-long getaway. Start small! Take 10 minutes to walk by yourself every day. Take an hour once a week to do something you enjoy, like reading a book in peace and quiet, taking a long bath, or having coffee with a friend. Spend a night in a local hotel, or ask a friend going on vacation if you can stay a night at their home. Sleeping late and not having to clean up after anyone for even one night might do wonders for you!

Let Go of Guilt

Whether you chose to become a foster parent, or very suddenly became the sole caregiver of your grandchildren, you love your kids. Taking an hour once a week to do something for yourself, or taking a long weekend at the beach alone, isn’t selfish. It’s part of caregiving. When you are rested and healthy, you can provide better care for the people who rely on you. You may also discover a bit of respite care in the form of summer camp or daycare, where your children can learn and play.  There is nothing to feel guilty about in addressing your own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Like Palmer Home and Jonah’s Journey caregivers, you are participating in the beautiful but difficult work of Making Lives Whole. Caring for yourself is a vital element for success.

If you’d like to hear or share more on this topic, Dr. David Foster, Senior Advisor of Whole Child Initiative, recently spoke about self-care for caregivers, which we’re discussing on the Whole Child Initiative forum. Join the conversation! 


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