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Respite Care: Giving Caregivers a Break

Ronnie Friedland
May 31, 2017

Who pays, where to find it, how to prepare and why it helps.



What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is substitute care given so that the regular caregiver can take a break and get some relief from the burden of caregiving. The respite care can be for a weekend or a day or even for an hour, on a regular basis or just one time. It can be for an ill or special needs adult or child, such as a child with autism or an adult with Alzheimer's.

Who Gives Respite Care?

Sometimes respite care is given by family or friends, who want to relieve the regular caregiver of his/her burden. Or, it can be provided by paid caregivers.

How Will the Caregivers Know What to Do?

You'll need to give them a check list of things to do, emergency numbers to call. Make sure you list everything you do and that you check the references of the respite caregivers. For all respite caregivers, make sure they are comfortable and able to provide you with the assistance you need and that the person being cared for understands the temporary transition.

How Will I Find Respite Caregivers?

Of course, Care.com is one resource. Or you can ask your doctor for recommendations. Depending on the length of the respite, some nursing homes and assisted living facilities will provide temporary respite care.

Who Pays for Respite Care?

Some local governments help pay for respite care. Check with your local Council on Aging or Social Services Department. The federal government is addressing the problem and may offer assistance. Call the eldercare locator at HIDDEN, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, to see if help is available where you live.

Why is Respite Care Necessary?

Caregivers are at increased risk of depression and other health problems as a result of the stress of being a caregiver. Having respite care can enable the caregiver to keep providing rather than burning out or becoming ill herself.

What Else Can I Do to Avoid Burn Out?

Join a support group, get adequate sleep, eat nutritious meals, and exercise daily -- all these things will help your energy level and ability to respond to crises. Plus, always take advantage of offers of help. Providing constant care is a demanding job. It's crucial for caregivers to take a break periodically and this need is a normal part of the life-cycle of care. Support groups can help with guilt and frustration or just help caregivers keep morale high.

The Bottom Line

If you are caring for a loved one, you need to take care of yourself so that you can continue to provide that care. Finding respite care is a necessity.

Helpful Links

Family Caregiver Alliance -- offers programs at national, state and local levels to support caregivers.

Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley


Eldercare Locator -- a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that links caregivers with senior services

Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.

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