Is there any type of weekend respite care exchange available?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 10, 2016
Cypl asked...

I'm interested in a caregiver's "buddy's system" - shared respite with alternating responsibilities. Specifically, I'd like to partner with another caregiver, providing care for their loved one (and my own) in exchange for personal respite. My husband has dementia/early onset of Alzheimer's. He attends an adult day care Monday through Friday, is ambulatory without assistance. He does not wander, is quiet and pleasant, and is NOT combative or incontinent. He just needs to be supervised (given meals and medications). As I can't afford to pay someone to stay with my husband for a weekend getaway, I thought this idea might appeal to another in a similar financial situation. Does this exist? If not, how might I begin this caregiver's networking endeavor?

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Weekend respite care programs do exist. They might be different than you describe. Within your community,if you want to start this kind of service to benefit yourself and others,I encourage you to try to do it. It will take networking. Since your husband is in adult day care, start where you are. Do they have a support group for their clients? Try to visit every support group that you can find. The day care people will know where they are. If they don't know, then go to the Area Agency on Aging. Go to the county Office on Aging. Go to Senior Centers and Home Care Agencies. Go to as many churches as possible. Tell them of your idea. Listen to their feedback and suggestions, but if they are negative, don't lose heart. Keep going. Think how you could make it work for the days that you have two to care for. What would be a plan of care? Write out a daily schedule showing what you would be doing each hour of the day. It would be essential for you and your buddy to visit back and forth with your loved ones, in order to prepare for your week-end off. Share coffee and cake or a meal. Let your spouses get to know each other and to become familiar with the two environments. Show your buddy the schedule and solicit suggestions. Tell your doctor of your plan. Ask for a tranquilizer for your loved one for the two night that your buddy is away. Sometimes dementia patients are unable to sleep in unfamiliar beds. If possible try to work with an agency to have a paid caregiver come for a few hours to assist when you have two. This will help to reduce worry in case something unexpected happens.
Also, contact the National Association of Family Caregivers to see if they have any networks such as you describe. They could connect you with others who are working on the same idea.
I wish you the very best in this important work!

Community Answers

Cypl answered...

Since posting this question, I have in fact established a "buddy system" with my daughter. That is, as a first-time mom of a 16 month old, she too is in need of respite! So whenever possible we take turns providing "time apart", for one another: alternating care for her daughter/my granddaughter and my husband/her father. Indeed, this simple solution is actually working quite well! Thanks...