Respite Care

What is respite care?

Respite care is a way for the main caregiver of someone with special needs to have some time off. A respite break can be as short as a few hours or it may last a couple of days or weeks. Respite care can be given in the home or outside of the home.

What are the different types of respite care?

There are several different types of respite care:

In-home respite: Someone comes to the home for a few hours each week to allow the regular caregiver some free time. Respite workers may be paid or they may be volunteers. Paid respite workers can usually be hired by the hour through home care agencies. They have been trained as aides or homemakers. Volunteer respite workers may have some training. Donations can be made to the organizations that provide the volunteers.

Family respite: Other family members, usually those not living in the home, spend some time with the person needing care. This gives the regular caregiver some free time.

Adult day care programs: These are group programs that provide care and supervision outside the home for adults with special needs. They offer a safe, secure place for older adults to spend the day. Programs provide activities and meals. Some offer healthcare and counseling, and some provide transportation to and from the center. The hours that someone needing care may attend are usually flexible, allowing the caregiver to schedule the respite around his or her needs. Some adult day care programs offer weekend or overnight respite care. The programs may be located in community centers, long-term care facilities, or hospitals.

Institutional respite: A chronically ill or elderly person may be admitted to a nursing facility or assisted living facility for a short time (1 to 3 weeks). This allows the caregiver to go out of town for a few days or just relax.

Why do caregivers need respite?

Caregiving is often a 24-hour-a-day job and can be emotionally and physically exhausting. The person receiving care needs you to be as patient and helpful as possible. When caregivers are tired, they may not provide good care. Abuse may even occur. There have been cases where caregivers, many of them spouses, died before the persons they were caring for because they did not take care of themselves.

No one expects you to provide all of the care. Others can learn to help. The person receiving care may benefit from being around someone different for a time.

How do I arrange for respite?

To provide good care to someone, recognize that you need to take care of yourself. This may include taking time for you and getting away for a while. Have a meeting of people in the family who are responsible for or interested in the welfare of the person needing care. If having this family meeting might be emotionally difficult, find a nonfamily member to run the meeting. A social worker or nurse from the local hospital may be a good person to do this. When you have the meeting, discuss questions such as:

  • What care is needed?
  • What are your needs as the main caregiver?
  • What financial resources are available for respite?
  • What is each person willing to do to provide care?
  • What type of respite is best in your situation?

Once the family decides on the type of respite to be used, call your local hospital, senior center, or Area Agency on Aging to find out about respite services in your area. To locate your Area Agency on Aging, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

Discuss arrangements with the person receiving care before the first respite visit. Do not change your plans just because the person you are caring for complains or tells you that no one can give care as well as you do. You must take care of yourself if you are to take good care of someone else.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2008-01-25
Last reviewed: 2013-06-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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