Care giving is a rewarding yet complicated job. It requires time, patience, and love to take care of the intimate needs of another. Being the caregiver of a person with special needs can cause frustration, burnout, and poor health. Primary caregivers often neglect their own health and well-being. In fact, they have higher rates of disease and early death than the general population. The long days, sleepless nights, and stress of being a caregiver have a cumulative effect and can even lead to abuse, neglect, violence and suicide.

Individuals with a learning disability or another special healthcare need require a caregiver with unique characteristics. Empathy, compassion, patience, good communication skills, and physical strength are only some of the requirements of effective caregiving. Care givers that are trained and experienced are rare. Some work at facilities like epilepsy care homes and autism care homes. Others only work on a volunteer basis. There is surely a shortage of competent and caring caregivers. This means that the vast majority of caregiving falls on the shoulders of family. Caregiving becomes a full time job. There are programs and government assistance to assist primary caregivers but these do not go far in eliminating fatigue and burnout.

The best way to reduce the stress of being a caregiver is having access to regular, affordable, and safe respite care. Respite care facilities include independent living facilities for people with learning disabilities, epilepsy care homes, autism group homes, and even overnight nursing care funded by insurance companies and Medicaid. These and other respite programs are proven to work. Much research has been done to study their effectiveness and the numbers are clear; respite care works. It translates into happier, healthier primary caregivers who report feeling more fulfilled in their roles and better outcomes for those with special needs. Caregivers get distracted less often and report being better able to focus. There are fewer instances of abuse, neglect, and violence, especially among male primary caregivers.

There are several very important factors involved with finding the right respite care. There is a short list of these factors. First, make sure that respite caregivers have no criminal record. This is typically a requirement for employment at most agencies. Second, ask tough questions. What procedures are in place to monitor for abuse? What hiring practices are in place to hire caregivers that keep clients safe? What kind of insurance does the company have? Can I drop by unexpectedly to check on my loved one? Third, check ratings and reviews online. Fourth, check to see if the company is a member of the Better Business Bureau. If it is, how have they handled complaints? Following these steps will help find great respite care.

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