Once you start caring for a parent or another family member, you’ll probably hear about respite care. This type of care can be a sanity saver for stressed family caregivers, especially those in the so-called “sandwich generation” who care for a parent, have children at home, and may also do paid work outside the home. Even if you don’t think you need respite care, an emergency or illness later on may put you in a caregiving bind. One way to be prepared is to understand what respite care is, what it can do for your family, and how to find good respite care services.
Respite care definition
Respite (pronounced RESS-pit in the US) care describes temporary care that allows regular caregivers to take a break, either for a few hours or a few days. Some family caregivers use respite care daily or weekly while they work outside the home. Others call in respite care when they need to take care of their own medical issues like checkups and dental appointments. Many use their respite time to visit with friends, exercise, and run errands. And any caregiver can need respite care when they unexpectedly get sick, get injured, or have another family emergency.
There are other reasons to use respite care, too. Savvy long-term family caregivers who can afford residential respite care tend to do so once or twice a year so they can get away for a long weekend or a weeklong vacation. These breaks help them come back to their caregiving responsibilities feeling less stressed and better able to provide good care. Families who plan ahead for the move to assisted living or a dementia care community sometimes book a few days of on-site respite care to “audition” places before they make a decision.
Respite care options
In most communities, there are several forms of respite care available to family caregivers, from part-time in-home care and adult day programs to onsite respite care stays at senior living communities.
If your parent prefers to be at home, in-home respite care provided by a senior care agency can give you a daily or weekly break. Some agencies offer a menu of options such as having a caregiver come by each weekday morning to help with dressing and breakfast, or dropping in for a few hours one afternoon a week for social time and light housekeeping.
On the other hand, if your parent is an extrovert who prefers to get out of the house, or if you work outside the home and worry about your parent being home alone, an adult day program may be a better respite option. Many senior centers and some houses of worship offer some type of adult day program, often five days a week. A typical day starts after breakfast and includes a hot lunch, games and crafts, some unstructured social time, and help with medication and activities of daily living as needed through the early afternoon. Some day programs are custom-tailored for seniors with memory loss, and some offer transportation to and from the program site.
Residential respite care is offered by some senior communities when they have vacancies. It’s the ideal choice for caregivers who need to leave for several days, want round-the-clock care for their parent, and don’t want to have to set up multiple shifts of in-home caregivers.