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Respite Care for the Elderly

Many Americans provide daily assistance to elderly family members or friends so they are still able to live in their homes. This can be a physically and mentally demanding job.

Respite care provides relief for the caregiver. It takes some of the burden and stress away, whether it’s for a few hours a day or a few days a week. Getting respite care is important for your health and for your ability to continue to provide care for your loved one.

Respite care includes a variety of services such as home-based care, skilled nursing, home health, residential programs and companionship.

Many people need help even when they are able to stay at home. Respite care is growing in importance today because more seniors are living longer, remaining healthy longer, and want to remain in their homes. Those that step in to provide ongoing care are respite workers. They can be an incredible benefit to the entire family including seniors who need different levels of care.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care provides relief for the caregiver. In many families, an elderly person is reliant on the care of his or her family. In some cases, this may be a minor amount of care – such as helping around the home. In other situations, the care is comprehensive involving all levels of personal management. Yet, family members get tired, too. They need a break. Sometimes they need help on a day to day basis. In other cases, they need someone who can provide care for a period of time while they travel or just take some time to themselves. Respite care workers provide this type of support.

Respite workers have the unique ability to help reduce the stress and anxiety that a caregiver has. This may not be all of the time, but it provides an important break for the individual, helping to ensure he or she continues to maintain their mental health.  Respite care is flexible. It fits the needs of the individuals involved. That’s important because many family members simply do not know there is help available to them.

Respite care can include as much or as little care as possible. It can be available at various times of the day and as frequently as desired. This type of flexibility helps caregivers to maintain the best level of care for their loved one without sacrificing their own mental health for it.

What Services Do Respite Providers Offer?

One of the unique facets of respite care is that it provides care designed for the individual situation. This means that family members can choose when to use the service, how much service to use, and what type of care they need. For example, if a family is taking care of an elderly parent, but the family needs to go away for the weekend, respite care can step in and provide 24 care for the elderly parent. On the other hand, a family member may need to work different hours, and the elderly parent cannot be left alone each day during that time. Respite care can step in to fill in on a daily basis to cover that needed help.

The types of services provided depend on the circumstances of the situation. Elderly individuals may need constant care and supervision or may not need much care at all. Again, the respite workers can provide for just about any need.

Respite worker services can include providing personal care such as help with dressing, feeding, bathing, toileting, and grooming. They can also provide services around the home such as preparing meals, cleaning up, washing clothing, and handling shopping. Most often, they do not provide medical care as a standard. However, it is possible to obtain respite workers with skilled care licensing. This would allow the individual to provide assistance with physical therapy and medication.

An important part of respite care is providing one-on-one attention and care for the elderly person. This includes providing attention to their needs such as holding a conversation or playing a game for the individual. Most will also spend time walking with the individual and meeting their day to day mental needs.

Respite workers can help those who are suffering from dementia or other forms of mental health concerns. They can also provide a fill-in like service for those who are otherwise healthy.

When Does a Caregiver Know When They Should Consider Respite Care?

It’s essential to recognize the needs for caregiver respite support. Simply, no matter the amount or type of service you provided to a loved one, you need a break from time to time. You may simply need to get away – such as do to an emergency or due to another family obligation. However, you should view respite care as a service and support for beyond these times – it can work to help you to shore up your own mental health.

Recognize the symptoms of needing this type of support. If you are tired and overwhelmed, you may help. You may feel frustrated or unable to provide the highest level of care to your loved one. You may begin to feel like you are giving up too much of your life to meet the needs of your loved one. Or, you simply may recognize that you need a day off for yourself. Whether your needs are immediate due to another obligation or due to the stresses of daily life, it is always a good idea to seek out and use respite care whenever it is available to you.

Types of Respite Care

Respite care can be divided into two main types: in-home and out-of-home.

In-Home Respite Care

In-home services can be provided by paid help trough an agency or even by a volunteer. Care can be for several hours a day, an overnight or weeks. This allows the resident to remain in their homes where they are usually more comfortable.

Some of the types of in-home providers and services include:

  • Personal care provides assistance with activities of daily living, such as dressing, feeding, grooming, bathing and using the bathroom.
  • Homemaker services provide meal prep, shopping and housekeeping.
  • Skilled home health care providers have specialized training for medical assistance such as medicine administration.
  • Companions provide exactly that. They get to know the resident, play games, go for walks and other forms of companionship. Companions can be paid or often times, they are volunteer members of a church or other non-profit.

Respite Care Centers

Out-of-home respite care usually takes the following forms:

  • Adult Day programs are for those elderly who are no longer independent (disabled or frail). They may also be isolated and alone. An adult day care center provides services during the day such as meals, socialization, games and educational activities. These allow the caregiver the freedom to go to work during the day.
  • Residential respite care takes the form of group homes, nursing homes or other specialized facilities. These options can care for patients for 24-hour periods.

Planning Your Respite Relief

Start with analyzing both your needs and those of your loved one. Make a diary for a week listing the times and things you most need help with. Do you need free time? Help with transportation? What are you loved ones requirements? Medication management? Mental stimulation? Assistance with eating, walking, dressing?

How Much Does Elderly Respite Care Cost?

The cost of respite care varies significantly based on the types of services provided as well as the amount of time needed. A short-term situation can cost about $300 per day or up to $9,225 per month. In some situations, the costs can be significantly more especially in areas where the availability of respite workers is limited.

Many people use respite care on an on and off situation. You may not need help all of the time. You do not pay for the service unless you are using it. For example, if you just need a day off every other week, you only pay for that time. Service providers – whether those working with a company or those working alone – vary in cost based on the amount of time worked.

Paying for Respite Care

First, look into local volunteer organizations. Can a church or civic group provide volunteers? What about the local college? Are there students who need class credit for these types of services? How about nursing students?

  • Insurance usually only covers respite care if the care providers are licensed medical professionals such as nurses, dietitians or other specialists. A long-term care policy usually does pay for some services.
  • VA Benefits pay for up to 30 days a year for those that qualify.
  • SSI disability recipients may be eligible for benefits.
  • Medicaid does not pay directly for respite care, but some states have waivers that can offset some of the costs.
  • State Agencies have funds that help qualified family members receive payment for respite services.

Assessing the Quality of Respite Care

When deciding on a respite care agency, consider these questions:

  • How are employees screened for the job?
  • How are employees evaluated?
  • Is there a written care plan?
  • Does the agency keep a record of the senior’s medical needs and conditions?
  • How much does the care cost?
  • What’s included in the care cost?
  • How do caregiver employees handle emergencies?
  • Can family members meet and interview the people who will be providing the respite care? If so, consider asking these questions:
  • Are you insured?
  • Can I see your references?
  • What special skills related to the job do you have?
  • Ask situational questions: If my Mom fell and injured her … How would you handle this?
  • What are your experiences in providing respite care?
  • What if you are unable to come over? Do you have a back up?

Is There Senior Respite Care Near Me?

There are a variety of respite care facilities and services in most areas. Many times, insurance companies and medical health providers can offer recommendations for these services. They are available as individuals who work on their own to provide respite care. They also work with third party companies or specialized providers.

Most areas will have a wide range of respite services available to patients. Take the time to get to know these organizations as well as the individuals that will be providing care for your loved one. You need to feel confident in the type and level of service they can offer to you. The more information and guidance you receive from these individuals, the better. Respite care services are available as an emergency situation or as a long-term, planned event in most areas. This can give you the support you need no matter what is happening.


Respite Care can provide family members and friends with a much-needed break from their daily duties taking care of a senior loved one. Before you start you search, decide what kind of relief you’re looking for. Then look at the options in your community: professional agency, civic or church volunteer, etc.

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