Of Respite Providers

Being a respite provider has got to be a challenging job.  You are employed to provide occasional care to an individual, allowing their primary care giver to have a break.  The care needs may be a few hours a month to several hours each week.  The schedule may vary widely or may be highly fixed and repetitive.  Usually, the respite provider and the client's primary care giver negotiate what hours are scheduled.

Some respite providers offer their services as a second source of income.  They may be full-time students or even hold a full-time job elsewhere.  Their other commitments may prevent them from being available exactly when the client wishes.   Some respite providers offer their services to more than one client at a time.  When this happens, if two or more of the clients get along and if all are agreeable, the respite provider may coordinate joint outings.

When you're a respite provider, you're to take care of the physical needs of the client and to accommodate the interests and desires of the client so long as the activities do not endanger anyone.   If the client wants to go bowling, then that's what should be on the agenda.  If the client wants to eat out at the same restaurant every single time they go out, then the client should be taken to the same restaurant.

Clients can be a challenge because of the limited set of venues they want to visit, their own communication or emotional limitations.  Clients can be demanding, petulant, excited or dull.  What the client wants to do may be boring to the respite provider.

But, it is not about the respite provider.  It is about the client.

What the respite provider hopefully remembers is that by providing their services, they are actually helping maintain an engagement between the client and the community.  They are giving the primary care provider time to take care of their own appointments, their chores or even giving them time to just soak in a tub of bubbles.  This improves the quality of life for both the client and their primary care provider.

It must be hard for the respite provider to balance all the scheduling needs, the personalities in play and their own personal lives.  I suspect there may be a high rate of burn out and I think we're seeing that come into play with Lyn's current respite provider.  She is the 4th or 5th provider we've worked with at this point.  When each of them started trying to find ways drag Lyn along on their personal errands instead of focusing on what she wanted to do in their time out, we knew their time working with Lyn was coming to a close.

This week, Lyn's respite provider flaked out on their Friday plans and just shrugged it off with an "oops."  On Saturday, instead of taking Lyn bowling, she took Lyn to her son's swim meet.  Instead of going bowling after the swim meet, she took Lyn to a department store where the respite provider returned a dress and tried on shoes.  Lyn came home in tears.  The respite provider didn't even escort Lyn to the door because she had to go pick up another client.

When Mom and I spoke about it on Saturday, I was concerned that Mom would say that she's going to end working with this respite provider and not get another one lined up.  I was afraid she would say something along the lines of "I'll just do it all myself."  Thinking this way is a recognized stage of being a care provider and it is a risky one.  No one can care for an Alzheimer's patient 100% on their own.  For their own sanity, they need some assistance.  Fortunately, Mom didn't express anything like that and agreed that having respite care is as critical for her as it is for Lyn.

So, we'll see what happens over the next week or two.  If things don't change with this respite provider, then we'll transition to another.  I used to worry about Lyn handling the transitions well, but I don't anymore.  She seems to handle it pretty well.


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