Respite care can be a lifesaver for family caregivers, but many are unaware this service even exists. Those who know about it often don’t know how to access it.
We turned to an expert for answers. Jennifer Hand, one of the Elder Care Coordinators at Bratton Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in the Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas, is here to answer some of the most common questions she hears about respite care.
What is respite care?
Respite care is care provided by someone else that gives family caregivers a temporary break from caregiving duties. Respite care gives caregivers time to do other things, such as run errands, handle work commitments, attend to other family matters, or pursue personal interests such as reading, shopping, exercising, or catching up with friends. “Respite care is incredibly important,” Jennifer said. “Though caregiving can be very rewarding, it also can be an all-consuming responsibility that can easily lead to burnout. Respite care helps caregivers recharge.”
Who provides respite care?
“If the elder is living in the home, respite care might involve hiring a professional care provider to come into the home for as long as needed,” Jennifer said. “Respite care might also be accomplished by temporarily moving the older adult to a long-term care facility. Either way, family members or friends can be reassured that their loved one is safe while they take the necessary break that they need to rejuvenate themselves.”
How long does respite care last?
Jennifer believes there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. “It's based on what the caregiver needs and what they think would benefit their loved one,” she explained. “It can be 20 minutes. It can be 20 days. It can be longer. It’s totally flexible.”
How do you find respite care?
If you’re looking for respite care, an online search is a good place to start. Google terms like “respite care near me,” “respite programs near me,” and “adult day centers near me” to generate an initial list of options. “Your local Office on Aging should also have a list of providers and may even offer grants to pay for respite care,” Jennifer said. “The Alzheimer’s Association has an online database—communityresourcefinder.org—that can be used to find respite resources that can be used by anyone—not just people who have some form of dementia.”Once you have your list of options, pay a visit to the ones that look most promising.
How do you find a long-term facility with a respite program?
Though Jennifer recommends getting a referral from someone familiar with long-term care facilities in your community, it’s possible to find a program on your own. “You can call the admissions office and ask if they offer a respite care program,” she advised. “If the answer is yes, find out how long older adults can stay. Some facilities are willing to accommodate stays of up to a few weeks.”
How does respite care benefit the older adult?
Jennifer says that one of the biggest benefits involves social interaction. “If the same person is providing care day in and day out, stimulation from being in a new environment can be beneficial,” she noted.
What is the biggest respite-related mistake caregivers make?
Waiting too long is the most common issue, with delays happening for a number of reasons. “I’ve found that a lot of caregivers will wait because they feel some guilt,” Jennifer said. “Many caregivers think they should be able to do it all. They believe that seeking help makes you a failure.” Cost is another issue. People are concerned about how to pay for services, and they don’t realize that financial assistance is often available. “You just have to know where to look,” Jennifer added. “That’s where working with an elder care coordinator in a Life Care Planning Law Firm can be so valuable. The families I work with say the guidance is worth its weight in gold.”