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Respite Care

Definition

Respite care is short-term, temporary care provided to people with severe disabilities, chronic illnesses, or terminal illnesses. It is designed to give families a break from the stress of daily caregiving. Respite care can be for a few hours, overnight, or for days. The amount of care can change with the needs of the family and the ill or disabled person.

What is the information for this topic?

What services are provided in respite care?
Services provided depend on the needs of the family or the ill or disabled person. Sometimes a respite caregiver comes into the home for a few hours during the day or evening. Other times the ill or disabled person may need to stay in a nursing facility for a few days. Either way, the person who needs help will receive his or her medication or treatments as usual.
Who provides respite care?
The respite caregiver might be a licensed vocational nurse, a certified nurse's aide, a family member, or a neighbor. Formal respite programs may send a caregiver to the home. Or, the person who needs care may need to come to a day care center or respite group home.
Families that are looking for respite care may want to contact:
  • advocacy groups for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses
  • hospice organizations for the terminally ill
  • senior or long-term care facilities, which may offer respite care as a service
Respite programs can be found in the yellow pages of the phone book, on the internet, or through specific organizations that serve the elderly.
Who needs respite care?
Family members who are caring for a loved one with a severe disability or chronic or terminal illness need a break in the daily routine.
Parents with disabled or ill children also may need respite care. With child abuse prevention in mind, the United States Congress passed the Temporary Child Care for Children with Disabilities and Crisis Nurseries Act in 1986. This act provides states with the funding needed to develop temporary child care services. Each state has a respite coalition. The Developmental Disabilities Council in each state can help parents of children with disabilities find respite care services.
Why does someone need respite care?
It's very important that a person caring for a loved one gets a break now and then. A change of activities and surroundings can prevent burnout and emotional or physical exhaustion. Periodic respite can help the parents or caregivers relax for a while and return to the situation with new energy. A change can also benefit the loved one by providing:
  • contact with new people
  • more stimulation
  • relief from the worry of overtaxing the family members
Are respite providers licensed?
Many formal respite programs require certification or licensing of their caregivers. People who volunteer their services may only have limited training. It is very important that the person who needs the services, or the person's family member, screen potential providers.
Some questions might include the following.
  • How are the respite caregivers screened?
  • What kind of training and experience do they have?
  • Will the caregivers need extra training for this situation?
  • What happens during the time the family member is receiving services?
  • Does the program maintain current information about the family member?
  • Can parents or family members meet and interview the caregivers?
  • How far ahead of time does the family need to call for respite care?
  • Are there time limitations?
  • Does the program provide transportation if needed?
  • Can the program or provider take care of siblings as well?
  • What is the cost of services?
  • How can payment be arranged?
Who pays for respite services?
Some private insurance plans will include limited respite services. In some cases the state or county may pay for this if the person qualifies. Some respite programs will bill the family directly, if desired. Some respite workers are volunteers.

Sources

American College of Physicians(ACP). ACP Online, Home Care Guide ARCH National Resource Center for Respite&Crisis Care. (2000). Chapel Hill, NC

Strandell, C.(1989). Client Studies in Home Health Care Nursing. Rockville, MA: Aspen publishing

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