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Respite: A break for both carer and loved one

CONSUMER STORY - As a full-time carer, it can be difficult to find time for yourself or do all the tasks you need to do in a day. It can be even more difficult if you need to visit family interstate but are unable to take your partner with you.
Older couple outside their home.
Juris and Ingrid Grevins have found UnitingSA's advanced booking respite care service helpful when visiting family interstate. [Source: Supplied]

Ingrid Grevins from Adelaide, South Australia, was in that position in 2019.  She wanted to attend her daughters 50th birthday celebrations in Canberra, but was unable to find a respite care facility that would accept an advance booking that would enable her to plan her trip, book flights and arrange for her wheelchair-bound husband to be cared for.

Luckily, Mrs Grevins was directed towards advanced booking respite care services with Adelaide-based aged care provider, UnitingSA, which solved the problem and provided her with a much-needed break while Mr Grevins received quality care in a nursing home.

Mrs Grevins explains that she wishes she knew about booking advanced respite care sooner, as the service has been invaluable to her and her husband.

"The thing is a lot of people don't know that you can do this because I certainly didn't last year," says Mrs Grevins.

"Respite care is really good for someone who wants to go visit family interstate… Everyone at Uniting SA helps us and are really supportive."

Becoming an unexpected carer

While living in Canberra in 2017, Mr Grevins woke up one night to go to the bathroom but quickly realised he was unable to walk. For a number of days, he was unable to move around the home and couldn't use his legs. Eventually, he visited the doctor and was taken straight to hospital.

Unable to return home because their house was split level, Mrs Grevins made the decision to move back to their home state of Adelaide to find a home that would best accommodate wheelchair access.

Seven months passed before Mr Grevins was able to return home to everyday life. Mrs Grevins had to modify their new home to make it safe for her husband to move around in his wheelchair, including installing ramps and removing the carpet and placing down timber flooring.

Mrs Grevins also became his full-time carer, undertaking all of his personal care, cooking, cleaning and gardening.

While Mrs Grevins is more than happy to care for her husband, she says it became difficult when she wanted to visit family back in Canberra.

Booked respite care services have been their lifesaver with Mrs Grevins saying she feels reassured that her husband is well taken care of while she is away. It also gives her a break from her caring duties.

Mrs Grevins says, "[Respite care] is a change for the patient. [Juris] gets out and gets to talk to people, it’s a bit of a change for him.

"He is home all the time, he doesn't go out anywhere, so I never had the house to myself, and I know that sounds weird, but sometimes it is really nice to have the house to myself."

In July 2020, COVID-19 caused a lockdown of the State, meaning Mrs Grevins couldn't visit her daughter in Canberra for her birthday. However, Mr Grevins was still booked in for respite care.

Luckily, Mr Grevins was looking forward to his time in respite, which allowed Mrs Grevins a break from caring duties so she could undertake other housework she wouldn't normally get to do. She also had time to volunteer at the Latvian Relief Society where she could socialise with other volunteers.

Dealing with respite care guilt

Mrs Grevins admitted the first time that she put her husband in respite care, she felt an immense amount of guilt. By the second and third respite visit, she found that he was enjoying the experience just as much as she was.

"What was really nice [last] November is when he was [in respite], it was the same staff at [the facility], the same girls on reception, the same nurses looking after him. He had a lovely welcome back by UnitingSA, so he felt quite at home," explains Mrs Grevins.

"Sometimes he gets a bit isolated here at home, but he doesn't mind going [into respite]. He would rather that than going to Canberra!"

She says respite care guilt is something all carers need to overcome when accessing the services, as respite can be so beneficial for the carers and the people they care for.

"If anyone is considering respite care, I think they should go for it and not feel guilty about it because in the long run it’s best for them and the person they are caring for,” says Mrs Grevins.

In the future, Mrs Grevins would like to have her husband go to Centre Based Care Respite as it will give her time to do tasks during the day while also giving him the chance to socialise and meet other people in his community. 

How have you found respite care services have helped you and your situation? Tell us below in the comments.

Related content:

Benefits of short term respite care
What types of respite care are there?
Differences between respite at home and nursing home respite

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