As a parent raising a child with a disability, you might find that "me time" is more fantasy than reality. Sure, you'd love some time to yourself, or one-on-one time with a spouse, partner, friend, or another child. But how can you find that perfect person to care for your child? And even then, can you trust someone else to provide just what your child needs?
Luckily, finding respite care — a well-deserved break from caregiving — with a skilled and caring person that you trust might be easier than you think.
Why You Need a Break
When your child has special needs, handing over responsibility can be a real challenge. You might feel as if you are the only person who can do the job, and doubt that anyone else could meet all of your child's needs. But remember, you're not superhuman. There's only so much you can give before you will feel mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. That's why it's a necessity — not a luxury — to take breaks from time to time.
When you take time off to recharge, you'll be able to give more and enjoy doing it. And your child will benefit as well. Kids learn that they can count on others for help. They can form new friendships, experience new environments or people, and have fun.
So, once you're ready to get help, how do you do it?
The many types of respite care include:
• a caregiver who comes to your home for a few hours daily, weekly, or as needed
• drop-off day programs (at a school, care facility, or residential care facility) that provide activities
• daily or weekly respite programs offered by a host family, residential facility, or camp
Another option that families enjoy is respite care offered through parent "co-ops." This is when families of kids with special needs take turns watching each other's kids. For example, you can take someone else's child for one day or evening a month, and that person can do the same for you. Support groups for families with your child's condition are a good place to meet other families.
You also might consider asking for help from extended family, friends, or neighbours, and giving them the training they need to care for your child.
Finding Local Care
Kids with special needs usually need care beyond what the average babysitter can provide. Speak to placement agencies who specialize in this type of placement.
Once you've narrowed your search and decided on a person or program, do a telephone interview. Ask if caregivers have had background and reference checks. When interviewing possible caregivers, ask to meet them in person. Make a list of all your child's needs, from toileting to communicating, and make sure that the caregiver has the skills to handle each task. Watch how he or she interacts with your child.
Call the applicant's references and ask about the caregiver. Was he or she helpful? Were there things the caregiver did that they didn't like? Keep interviewing and asking questions until you find someone you feel truly comfortable with.
How to Pay for It
Finding quality respite care at a cost you can afford might take a little time. But once you do, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it. Having an extra set of hands so that you can run errands, go to an appointment, or just take a break to do something nice for yourself will work wonders for your mental health.
And when you're happier, you'll have more energy to do the things you need to do for your child and family — and that makes everyone happy.