Caregivers, too, need time away

Publish Date:

Thursday, July 23, 2009


News Organization:

USA Today

Source URL:

When an elderly relative being cared for at home can't go on vacation, what's a caregiver to do?

Hire a home health aide 24/7, but that's too pricey for many. And other family members may not be able to step in.

Enter assisted-living communities that offer short-term "respite stays," which allow caregivers to vacation or give them a break. With seniors' retirement portfolios at lows, there's more room at some communities, and more are accepting short-timers.

Rosalie Georgeadis of Arlington, Va., has forfeited family vacations for three years because her 95-year-old mother, Lena Manos, wasn't up to going along. She recently checked out the local Sunrise at Bluemont Park before signing her mom up for a trial stay while Georgeadis had surgery. Manos plans to return for two weeks in September while the Georgeadis family vacations.

"My concern was that my mother would be stuck in this apartment, and no one would be paying attention," Rosalie says. "But when we arrived, they had a banner saying 'Welcome, Lena Manos,' brought her a plant and seated her with a different group of people every night" so she could make friends.

The cost: about $150 a day, including meals and snacks, daily housekeeping, laundry, help bathing and multiple visits every day by a medical technician or nurse to give medication and keep an eye on Manos' health.

Manos says she was treated "extra, extra nicely. I had company all the time. I tell everybody it was excellent, except they give you too much food." Manos says she gained 5 pounds.

Sunrise Senior Living, with 371 residences in the USA, has traditionally allowed short stays for the growing number of seniors cared for by family. "But a lot of people don't know we do this," says Kurt Conway, Sunrise senior vice president of marketing.

Emeritus Senior Living, with 309 communities in 36 states, offers short-term stays in all communities "as long as there is availability," says Jayne Sallerson, senior vice president of marketing. Costs usually range from $100 to $200 a day depending on resident needs and region. Emeritus properties in Southern states also host "snowbirds" from the north. "It's easier not having to keep a (winter) home all year long," Sallerson says.

Classic Residence by Hyatt, with 19 communities across the USA, also provides respite stays, depending on availability.

A short visit can be arranged in an assisted-living apartment in a Hyatt rental community that offers nursing care or in a continuing-care retirement community, Classic Residence spokesman William Byrne says. Rates for a stay in a private apartment might run about $200 a day, he says.

Some communities that once insisted on long-term contracts now are accepting short-timers to fill beds in hard times, those in the industry say. Respite stays also may help recruit full-time residents for assisted-living facilities.

Elinor Ginzler, AARP caregiving columnist, applauds short stays because "caregivers absolutely need a break. This is a good opportunity (to get one) and give caregivers peace of mind. They often put themselves last.

"They need more respite than they get."

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