Robinson: Respite makes sense for individuals, state

July 26, 2013 

Robinson

— Respite is a break for family caregivers who take care of a loved one who cannot be left alone due to special needs. It is a necessity for the mental and physical health of family caregivers: It keeps marriages together, reduces abuse and neglect and helps keep us at home, where we want to be. And that’s best for taxpayers, too.

We commend S.C. legislators for overriding the governor’s veto and keeping $3 million for respite care in the 2013-14 state budget. While the funds are in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging budget, they apply to those who care for the disabled as well. Next year let’s make it for all ages. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell has done S.C. families a great service by securing these funds for respite.

As much as 80 percent of long-term care is provided by family caregivers (parents, spouses, grandparents, siblings, adult children and sometimes even teenagers). Care giving affects at least one-fourth of American families, many providing care 24/7. And because we are all living longer, care giving goes on longer than ever before. Private-pay nursing home care in South Carolina costs at least $60,000 a year. Yet studies show that as little as five hours of respite a week, at a much, much lower cost, can enable family caregivers to keep loved ones at home.

In 2009, South Carolina was one of the first 12 states to receive federal Lifespan Respite Care funding. The Office on Aging partnered with the S.C. Respite Coalition and Family Connection of South Carolina. We continue to work with many organizations statewide that are concerned about respite for family caregivers of people of all ages.

Imagine your “child” with autism is now an adult and your mom, once your main respite provider, is older and has dementia. Now you care for two loved ones. Imagine suddenly becoming a family caregiver to someone in mid-life with a stroke, Lou Gehrig’s disease or a head or spinal cord injury. Imagine you are married to a veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Imagine your child is born with special needs and will need care for life.

South Carolina needs a system of respite that makes it easy for all these families to find respite resources. Families do not come in age and disability groups, just because agencies do. Ideally, the state will provide more funding for respite, like the $3 million legislators were wise enough to appropriate for this year. It’s an investment in families that makes sense – for all S.C. taxpayers.

Susan M. Robinson

Executive Director, S.C. Respite Coalition

Columbia

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