Care giving is a rewarding yet complicated job. It requires time, patience, and love to take care of the intimate needs of another. Being the caregiver of a person with special needs can cause frustration, burnout, and poor health. Primary caregivers often neglect their own health and well-being. In fact, they have higher rates of disease and early death than the general population. The long days, sleepless nights, and stress of being a caregiver have a cumulative effect and can even lead to abuse, neglect, violence and suicide.

Individuals with a learning disability or another special healthcare need require a caregiver with unique characteristics. Empathy, compassion, patience, good communication skills, and physical strength are only some of the requirements of effective caregiving. Care givers that are trained and experienced are rare. Some work at facilities like epilepsy care homes and autism care homes. Others only work on a volunteer basis. There is surely a shortage of competent and caring caregivers. This means that the vast majority of caregiving falls on the shoulders of family. Caregiving becomes a full time job. There are programs and government assistance to assist primary caregivers but these do not go far in eliminating fatigue and burnout.

The best way to reduce the stress of being a caregiver is having access to regular, affordable, and safe respite care. Respite care facilities include independent living facilities for people with learning disabilities, epilepsy care homes, autism group homes, and even overnight nursing care funded by insurance companies and Medicaid. These and other respite programs are proven to work. Much research has been done to study their effectiveness and the numbers are clear; respite care works. It translates into happier, healthier primary caregivers who report feeling more fulfilled in their roles and better outcomes for those with special needs. Caregivers get distracted less often and report being better able to focus. There are fewer instances of abuse, neglect, and violence, especially among male primary caregivers.

There are several very important factors involved with finding the right respite care. There is a short list of these factors. First, make sure that respite caregivers have no criminal record. This is typically a requirement for employment at most agencies. Second, ask tough questions. What procedures are in place to monitor for abuse? What hiring practices are in place to hire caregivers that keep clients safe? What kind of insurance does the company have? Can I drop by unexpectedly to check on my loved one? Third, check ratings and reviews online. Fourth, check to see if the company is a member of the Better Business Bureau. If it is, how have they handled complaints? Following these steps will help find great respite care.

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This week's story of #BridgesCares is brought to you by Bridges of Wyoming! Cliff has made such huge strides in his health. Since coming to Bridges he has lost a whopping 56 pounds! Cliff and his staff Aaron and Terri work very hard on helping Cliff to learn proper nutrition and portion control. Cliff's team including his Case Manager and Guardian are so very proud of him for all of his hard work and making such a great lifestyle change. We even received a call from his Doctor that has seen Cliff for the last five years and stated that he has never seen Cliff in such a healthy state. He was very impressed with how well the staff have helped Cliff, and with how much Cliff has made this positive change. Cliff very excited to continue with his health journey. Great job Cliff! we are very proud of you!A friendly reminder this holiday season! 📷: @thesundaychapterThis week's #BridgesCares story is brought to you by Bridges Autism Therapies. Last week, we had Farmer Joe and his big blue tractor visit our center in Evansville! Why you may wonder? Because one of our littles went on the potty 100% independently! Famer Joe let us climb up inside the tractor, turn the wheels, and rev the engine. Thank you, Farmer Joe! #BridgesCares #BridgesAutismTherapies #EvansvilleDo you follow us on #Twitter? If not, you should!The results of our art competition are in. The winner is our Employee Engagement Manager, Kirstan Kemezy. The organization she chose to donate $100 to is Paws and Think. They are an Indianapolis based organization with a mission to improve people's lives through the power of the human-dog connection. If you are looking for an organization to volunteer with this holiday season, we highly recommend you check out pawsandthink.org to see the available opportunities. We would like to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone who voted in the competition on Facebook. Didn’t see the Facebook post? Be sure to like our FB page today! #BridgesCares #BridgesUS #EmployeeEngagementCongrats Kalin on a huge accomplishment! Post credit: @sbnationHappy Thanksgiving from Bridges US and Bridges Autism Therapies! What are you most looking forward to today? #Thanksgiving2018 #Thanksgiving #BridgesUS #BridgesAutismTherapiesThis week's story for our #BridgesCares was submitted by Bridges of Wyoming!

Erin came to Bridges a little over three months ago. When Erin came into services, she had been bedridden and had not walked for over a year! In this short time, she has worked with her staff Kayla, Maygan, and Calla along with the rest of the team she has begun walking again.

Erin is now able to walk around her home, to and from the vehicle, and she has a wonderful goal to be able to go up and down the stairs at her daughter's house for Thanksgiving! We know with all of her hard work and perseverance she is sure to succeed! 
Erin has also started a wonderful garden at her home and enjoys all of her fresh food and the time she can now spend outdoors! #BridgesCares #BridgesofWyoming #ThanksgivingBe sure to thank someone today and every day. Thank you to our team who is working today in homes and in the community! We appreciate you. #BridgesCares #Thanksgiving
📷: @progressivebehaviorconsulting