As caregivers, we are on the front lines, finding solutions on the fly to deal with daily issues that crop up, and most of our wisdom is never revealed beyond our family. There are also problems that we encounter that don’t have easy solutions, but where do we turn for assistance?
There are organizations that care about these issues. OpenIDEO recently hosted a challenge that centered on improving the end-of-life experience for all involved. My idea, Respite Care Share, was selected as one of the top 10 ideas. The challenge prompted me to submit an idea I had kicked around in my head for some time, but had no idea what to do with it. Respite Care Share was born after I pondered what to do with my parents’ condo after their deaths. I am in no rush to sell, but it bothered me that it just sits empty when there are so many people who need shelter.
I wanted there to be a way that homeowners could temporarily gift their rental properties or vacation properties to caregivers who need a respite from caregiving duties. The participating properties could be listed on Airbnb or a similar platform, and caregivers could rent for free for a brief stay. Caregivers could also search for and secure a vetted caregiver via an online service so their ill loved one would receive competent and compassionate care while the caregiver is away.
Caregivers deserve a break and studies show that their mental and physical health can benefit greatly from even a short respite. But convincing caregivers to take respite can be a challenge. Even though government programs like Medicare will cover respite care up to a certain point, it only pays for the ill loved one to be placed in a facility temporarily, and does not cover the caregiver expenses at all. Removing or reducing costs could eliminate one of the barriers to respite care that caregivers face.
Still, there are some caregivers who cannot bear the thought of leaving their loved one’s side, even for a night. That’s why Respite Care Share would also include caregiver care packages that would include gift certificates to personal care services that only take an hour or two, such as a free massage or yoga session. The point of the program would be to support caregivers in taking respite that is appropriate for them, and making it simple to arrange and as affordable as possible.
Respite Care Share is still in the planning stages but it is exciting to see how a nugget of an idea has developed into a prototype with potential.
If you have an idea on how to improve the caregiving experience, don’t be shy. You never know who may see the value in your idea and help turn it into a reality.