Ten Things Caregivers Need to Know about Respite


Published: 09/19/2012

by Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.


  1. It means “an interval of rest or relief.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, that is. And as a caregiver, you know how important this can be. Basically, respite care refers to services that provide the caregiver with that all-important break that can be used to relax, organize, run errands, visit with family and friends, or do whatever else you choose.


  1. It can happen in the home or outside of the home. Some respite care agencies will come into the home and spend time with your family member (as well as perform light housekeeping and meal preparation, depending on the service), while other respite care services are offered at adult day care centers and long-term care facilities. Some families use a combination of in-home and community respite services.


  1. It can be short- or long-term. Some caregivers only need a few hours of respite at a time, while others may need multiple days of respite if, for example, they need to travel and cannot take their loved one with them.


  1. It can occur regularly or on an as-needed basis. Most caregivers benefit immensely from just a few hours of respite every week. When they know that they have, for instance, every Wednesday afternoon to themselves, they can plan tasks according to this schedule. It also does wonders for one’s psyche to know that respite is right around the corner.


  1. It can be formal or informal. When most people think of respite care, they think of formal agencies that provide this service. But respite care can also be provided informally by friends, family members, and those from community and religious groups to which you belong. Think creatively about where respite might be available to you.


  1. Costs vary. The cost of respite care can vary greatly depending on the agency, the type and scope of care provided, geographic location, and whether the respite care is formal or informal. Come up with a general budget for respite care before you begin looking at specific services.


  1. It helps you. Employees are not expected to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – it’s recognized that they need breaks from work for their physical and mental health. Caregiving is no different. Respite care gives you the break you need to take care of yourself; an added bonus is that giving yourself respite can strengthen your caregiving skills.


  1. It helps your loved one. Social interaction is important for anyone, and we all need a variety of people in our life in order to stay socially stimulated. Respite care exposes your loved one to new people and new experiences in a safe environment, which can improve quality of life and well-being.


  1. It is necessary. Caregivers who have tried respite have often told me, “I don’t know how I did this for so long without respite care.” Many caregivers believe that respite care helped them keep their family members home longer and improved their ability to continue being a caregiver.


  1. Tools are available to help you find and coordinate respite. The Senior Care Society offers a Senior Resource Listing where you can search for respite care options near you. Also, be sure to check out our Family Portal – a tool to help you coordinate your loved one’s care and keep your family members informed about changes to the care routine.