A Comprehensive Guide to Respite Care for Caregivers


Are you a caregiver or a carer? Do you have a spouse or a parent who ill or disabled? Someone who relies on your considerable help in daily life?

Aren’t you exhausted? However much you love the person you care for, and however much you are the only one who understands exactly what their needs are, you need a break!

That’s exactly why there’s such a thing as respite care for caregivers. Take ten minutes out of your demanding care schedule to read about the benefits that this professional support service can provide.

Feeling Stressed and Alone

We know that you’re stressed out. Caregiving for a spouse or family member brings with it a host of intense emotions for both the patient and the caregiver.  You might feel alone and even depressed, wondering how long you’re going to be able to carry on doing what you’re doing.

Yet, you will be surprised to learn that in the USA, there are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers of adults aged 65 and older. The numbers are staggering, but serve to show that you are not alone. There are services available to give you the support you need, especially when the situation begins to outstrip the coping mechanisms you do have in place.

Respite Care for Caregivers is a Broad Term

Most often, respite care is taken to mean short-term stays for the person you care for in assisted living communities. Caregivers of family members or their spouse who need a short break from their caregiving duties often resort to respite care. Respite care can be especially helpful to take care of seniors who need a higher level of care if they are ill or recovering from surgery.

The length of stay at respite care facilities varies from a couple of days to one to three months. It depends entirely on your circumstances and the services provided by the organization you are in touch with.

Before you start going on a guilt trip about not coping well enough, take comfort in the thought that perhaps the person who you care for might need a break from you!

Just as often, respite care is a term that is also used to refer to daily home care services that various organizations dedicated to this service provide. For some, this type of respite for caregivers is a good introduction to the whole concept of respite care.  It allows the caregiver to get used to the idea that other people can care for their loved ones very well, and that it is okay to let them.

Take The First Step

While it is one more thing for you to do, it is worth looking into all your options before selecting one of them. Beware of well-meaning friends and acquaintances who give rash, unsubstantiated advice yet do nothing that actually helps your situation.  This is par for the course the world over – the thing to do is get reliable information from people and services who can actually help you.


Congress recently passed a bill signing into law the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act (RAISE). If the person you care for has a particular disease (such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers or Parkinson’s), get in touch with the relevant association.  They will probably have the information you need to hand.

Assessments To Discover Appropriate Help 

You might require medium- to long-term respite care for your loved one, or the daily or weekly home care variety. Whichever the case, you will need to do your homework. Once you have contacted the care facility or home care service, they will probably request an interview with you and the person you care for. The interview is to assess the type of care required needs of the person they’ll be looking after in your absence.

Handing over the reins can be stressful in itself. Care professionals, including qualified nurses, know this. They will make the transition as smooth as possible. Even after the care facility or service has evaluated your needs, it makes sense to seek references and referrals from them for your own peace of mind.

Respite care starts with establishing what type of support would be most appropriate for you and the person you care for. Put your anxieties aside. This might be your first time in seeking respite care, but home care professionals have experience in these often difficult situations fraught with emotions on the home front.

Take Time to Adjust – And Enjoy!

The person you care for might initially express reluctance at the idea of respite care. Experience has shown, however, that most cared-for people love the interaction with their part-time carers. Indeed, caregivers have often been heard remarking that those cared for often behave much better when a third party assists them than they do when their nearest and dearest performs the same task.

All this is normal. It is also normal for you to feel that somehow you have let down the person you care for. This is nonsense; you are being responsible by making sure you maintain at least something of the quality of life you had before your spouse or family member needed extra help.

The best thing to do is to talk about respite care services with each other well in advance. Sometimes it is difficult when the person you care for has begun to experience cognitive impairment. Be patient: once they know that their cooperation would mean the world to you, they’ll come on board, and help you get the rest you deserve.

Plan Your Break

As a caregiver, it is important to remember to plan what you are going to do during the respite period.

It is also useful to allow extra time to hand over your charge to the trusted professionals. It often takes longer than you anticipate, but this is good, since it gives both the care services and you the necessary time to cover all the bases.

Accepting help by engaging the services of an organization that offers respite care for caregivers is probably one of the biggest favors you can do yourself – and the person you care for so dearly.

So, be brave – unburden yourself briefly and dare to let someone else do the caring for a short while. Go on, take the first steps and give respite care a try.

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