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Health Matters

Respite Care

Sofia Neves (Clinical Psychologist / Neuropsychologist) . 10/03/2017

Portuguese society is becoming increasingly older and in need of care due to the prevalence of chronic disease.

Family takes on the role of caregiver, motivated by the desire to provide living conditions that ensure their family member’s dignity and wellbeing. Informal caregivers perform a family mission where they do their best to see their family member happy and well cared for, possibly taking this care as an opportunity to express love and affection, and to delay placing their loved one in an institution. However, providing long term care can have an impact on the family, namely becoming a physically and emotionally demanding experience for primary caregivers as the degree of dependence increases, with consequences for their physical and mental health.

Since 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about the importance of providing formal support to family caregivers, at the risk of these becoming a new group of patients in the health system. The current challenge is to create efficient responses to support the informal caregiver, enabling preventive use by the family.

Respite care is a relatively recent type of response in Portugal that aims to provide a temporary break in caring responsibilities for the caregiver to rest and attend to other activities. However, it is still not actively used by the family, since caregivers often fail to recognise their own exhaustion or, on the other hand, deal with feelings of guilt to reconcile their needs with their caring duties. Several studies report that when caregivers’ lives revolve around the elderly person’s needs, they can experience social isolation, work conflicts, family conflicts (with close or distant relatives), symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Due to this, Casa de Saúde de Carnaxidedeveloped the Program Cuidar da Mente(Caring for the Mind), integrating a set of caregiver support responses:

  • Counselling through information sessions on how to provide care and what support is available;

  • Training to acquire and develop knowledge and skills in provision of care;

  • Promoting health and wellbeing strategies for the caregiver (stress management, time management, among others);

  • Respite Care for caregivers, which can be provided occasionally (1 day per week), in emergency situations, on weekends or during holidays.

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