Respite Stays Benefit Everyone, Especially Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Award-winning “Main Street” at The Village at Waveny Care Center, an assisted living residence in New Canaan, Connecticut that is specifically designed to provide the most advanced therapeutic benefits to people with memory loss. The Village proudly offers respite services to families so that caregivers can regain some necessary personal time. Offering flexibility to meet the varying needs of caregivers, respite stays at The Village can be as short as four days, or as long as a month or more. 

New Canaan – More than 5 million American families presently care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly three-fourths of these caregivers have been providing care for at least a year, while 38% have done the same for more than five years. When a survey co-sponsored by The National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons recently asked such caregivers what they needed most, the majority responded “free time or a break for themselves.”

When caregivers take the necessary time to attend to their own physical, mental and emotional well-being, the recipient of the care benefits, too.  Respite care, a service offered by local assisted living residences like The Village at Waveny Care Center, provides safe, temporary lodging for individuals with memory loss and enables caregivers to rest, relax and catch up with family and friends.

“Individuals who provide care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s absolutely need to take advantage of services that allow them to temporarily step away from the caregiver role from time to time,” said Beverly James-Allen, RN, Supervisor of Assisted Living at The Village at Waveny Care Center — a unique residence designed to provide the most advanced therapeutic benefits for people with memory loss. “Respite services offer adult children and spouses of people with memory loss a chance to recharge their batteries. When you are involved in 24-hour care, day-to-day tasks are harder to take care of and you begin to neglect your own needs. A short placement in a safe and therapeutic environment enables caregivers to attend to themselves and other family members appropriately.”

“Caregivers should know that The Village welcomes short-term guests for stays as brief as four days or as long as a month or more,” said James-Allen. “Whether taking a vacation or simply enjoying some time to themselves, caregivers can enjoy peace of mind knowing their loved one is safe and being cared for by a highly-qualified, specifically-trained staff. Many caregivers find that when care is resumed at home after a respite stay, it can be a little less stressful for everyone”

The Family Caregiver Alliance, an organization supported by a San Francisco Agency on Aging reported that, “people who are caregivers to the elderly face an increased risk for depression, chronic illness and a possible decline in quality of life.” As a group, Alzheimer caregivers are twice as likely as other caregivers to be providing the highest levels of care for more than 40 hours a week, and thus face a greater risk of developing such stress-induced conditions. Respite services can alleviate some caregiver burden and, in doing so, help to maintain personal well-being and a healthy lifestyle.

“While caregivers regain necessary personal time during respite stays, their loved ones can also enjoy from a safe and pleasurable vacation of their own,” added James-Allen. There are numerous benefits offered to individuals with memory loss through a short-term stay in a residential therapeutic setting. The Village’s comprehensive program of social, recreational, spiritual and memory-enhancing activities helps to improve each respite guest’s health and overall well-being. In addition, assessments for rehabilitation to increase strength and balance are available, as are complete medication assessments and evaluations for services that can enable a safe return home — possibly for a longer length of time.

“Often, caregivers do not realize that residences like The Village offer respite care,” said Heather Neff, Chief Executive Officer of Waveny Care Network. “Nor do they realize that assisted living residences that are part of larger continuums of care – as The Village is within Waveny Care Network – provide on-site access to physical, speech and occupational therapy programs that can complement an existing care plan or present a senior with new opportunities to improve strength, endurance, balance and safe ambulation. Families that opt to incorporate Waveny’s therapy programs into a loved one’s respite stay at The Village often observe measurable progress in that individuals upon their return home. Short-term stays also enable families and seniors to gain a sense of trust and confidence in caregivers outside the home.”

“It is truly in a caregiver’s best interest to schedule respite stays into his or her loved one’s care plan, so they don’t burn themselves out physically and emotionally,” said Waveny Campus Administrator, Elyse Dent. “Unfortunately,” she added, “some caregivers feel it is selfish to focus on their own needs or believe that no one can care for their family member like they can. They end up waiting until they are overwhelmed and exhausted before getting help. Such situations are detrimental to all parties involved. Caregivers should know that they are not alone and that there are highly-qualified people and resources available to help them.”

Dent also emphasized that in addition to using respite services during a personal emergency or in order to regain some time for personal rejuvenation, a respite stay can serve as a helpful and convenient way for families and potential residents to “try out” assisted living before long-term decisions are made. “If an older adult needs 24-hour assistance,” said Dent, “short-term stays can provide a much-needed opportunity for caregivers and care recipients to ‘test the water’ in an assisted living residence. Many of our families find that their loved ones quickly take comfort in the secure, caring setting offered at The Village and enjoy the camaraderie and activities shared with their peers while they are here.”

 Waveny Care Network provides a comprehensive continuum of healthcare to serve the growing needs of older adults from all areas. Waveny is a not-for-profit organization that offers independent living at New Canaan Inn, assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s and memory loss at The Village, and skilled nursing at Waveny Care Center. It also includes the Brown Geriatric Evaluation Clinic, a Geriatric Care Management team that provides 24-hour coverage, an Adult Day Program available six days a week with flexible hours, inpatient and outpatient Rehabilitation Services, and respite and hospice care programs at The Village and Care Center. For more information on respite stays at The Village or Waveny Care Center, call (203) 594-5200 or visit www.waveny.org.

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