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Respite Care Explained

Many family caregivers are providing care around the clock, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.  Caregivers are overwhelmed and this takes a toll on their physical and emotional health. According to, "Caregivers need time off from their caregiving responsibilities to relieve stress and prevent burnout. Effective, sustainable caregiving depends on meeting the caregiver's own needs for nurture, reassurance, support and periodic respite."

Respite care provides caregivers with planned, temporary relief, and ranges from adult day care settings to nursing homes. These planned relief periods allow the caregiver to have a few hours to him- or herself to rest, relax or run errands, or even to go on vacation.  By reducing caregiver stress, burnout is prevented, which in turn leads to better care for the care recipient.

"A landmark study of caregiver health revealed that elderly spousal caregivers who experienced caregiver strain had a mortality risk that was 63% higher than that in control subjects." – American Academy of Family Physicians

Do respite services really help caregivers?
According to a study published in the Journal of Community Health Nursing, yes, they do. They concluded that 64% of caregivers for the elderly reported improved physical health after receiving four hours of respite per week for one year. In that same study, 78% said they had improved their emotional health, and 50% cited improvement in the care recipient as well. In addition, 40% said they were less likely to institutionalize the care recipient because of the help respite services provided.

What to look for in respite services providers?
When looking for respite services there are a few questions you should keep in mind. What kind of services do I need? What is the cost for the service? Are the providers trained? These questions, and more, should be considered when examining various respite providers.

Also, to ensure proper senior care for your loved-one, good communication is necessary before the respite services actually begin. Some topics to cover to ensure that you receive the best service possible include:

  • Explaining how well the care receiver understands instructions
  • Emergency/911 procedures
  • Special medical needs, equipment, procedures, etc.
  • Ambulatory assistance or exercise schedule
  • Bathing or toilet procedures
  • Sleep habits
  • Meal preparation or schedules
  • Medication schedules
  • Any special house "rules" or considerations

Whether the respite services are paid, or from volunteer organizations, communication is the key to receiving the best service possible. Finding respite services does not have to be difficult or stressful for caregivers, who already have a lot to worry about in providing the best care for their loved ones. Help is available for caregivers; it's important for them to take advantage of it.