Seeking a break from caregiving is not selfish, says Donn Dexter, MD, FAAN, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, WI. “If you're exhausted, the person you're caring for may end up in a nursing home,” he says. “Respite care for caregivers can help keep patients at home.”
These tips may help you pay for someone to look after your loved one and allow you the time off you need.
1. TALK TO FAMILY MEMBERS. Caregiving often falls to just one or two family members, no matter how many people are in the family, says Sherri Snelling, CEO of the Caregiving Club in Newport Beach, CA, a company that consults with corporations on caregiving and offers free resources for family caregivers. “If other family members can't take over the care temporarily, they may be able to help pay for someone else,” says Snelling. “And if they don't see it as their responsibility, ask them if they'll consider chipping in as a birthday or holiday gift.” If that fails, ask if they'll investigate resources that would help pay the costs. Be sure notes are taken, phone calls dated, contact information of those spoken to included, and letters and emails saved.
2. SIGN UP FOR LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE. Insurance firms vary on how much they provide, says Jill Kagan, program director at the ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) National Respite Network and Resource Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Some may reimburse families; others may pay providers directly. Check the terms so you know what amounts and options you have.
3. RESEARCH HEALTH INSURANCE AND MEDICARE. Private health insurance doesn't usually cover respite care for caregivers, but Medicare will provide some relief under certain circumstances. For example, it covers 95 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for five days at a hospital or skilled facility for a beneficiary with dementia who is also receiving hospice benefits such as a home visit from a nurse once a week. To be eligible, a doctor must determine that the patient has less than six months to live, although the benefit can be extended indefinitely.
4. INVESTIGATE STATE-BASED CARE. Many states have home- and community-based Medicaid waiver funds that can be allocated to pay for all or some respite care for either home-based care or at an approved facility, with need based on the income, age, and condition of the patient, not the caregiver, says Kagan. Adequate funds are not always available to help everyone who qualifies, so you may be placed on a waiting list, says Kagan. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/ARCH-RespiteCare or http://bit.ly/FamilyCareNavigator or contact your nearest Agency on Aging.
5. CHECK WITH THE VA. Some programs may provide short-term care at home or in an approved facility such as a nursing home for veterans with dementia. In some cases, this benefit is available for caregivers who are veterans, even if the people for whom they are caring are not. Check the resource list maintained by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation at http://bit.ly/EDF-RespiteCare. For more details, visit the Veterans Administration's resources page at http://caregiver.va.gov.
6. REACH OUT TO PLACES OF WORSHIP. Most have collection plates or charity funds for community needs. Start with the place you attend, but inquire even if you're not a regular participant. Look for the minister or rabbi's email or direct phone line and let him or her know your needs. If they don't have funds, they may know area organizations that do. Some faith communities have volunteers who can assist caregivers.
7. JOIN A PATIENT ORGANIZATION. Some patient organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association have information and sometimes even financial grants for respite care. Local offices of patient organizations may be able to provide more specific information or refer you to other funding resources.
8. CALL 211. Operators at this state-based resource for information on health and human services can refer you to area organizations such as the United Way, the YWCA or YMCA, and Easter Seals, which may be able to provide some respite care for free or at a reduced cost.
9. SEEK OUT CHARITIES. Hilarity for Charity, a nonprofit group started by actor Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller (whose mother has early-onset Alzheimer's disease and whose grandparents both died of the disease), provides grants for respite care for people looking after loved ones with dementia. To apply, go to http://bit.ly/Hilarity-Grants.