Resource Center / Senior Living Guides / Benefits of Respite Care

Benefits of Respite Care

For caregivers of all kinds, respite care can be a valuable part of the caregiving plan. Discover the benefits of respite care with info from Seniorly.

By Emma Rodbro Updated on Aug 30, 2023
Reviewed by Angelica P. Herrera-Venson · Reviewed on Jan 15, 2023

Whether an older adult lives independently, with family, or in an assisted living community, there are likely caregivers who support them in their aging journey. While some of these are professional caregivers, friends and family often play a very significant role in the caregiving and care management of older adults.

These family caregivers are often thrust into a new and sometimes confusing world. From coordinating doctor’s appointments to managing the labyrinth of insurance or Medicaid, those in a family caregiving role bear enormous responsibility for the health and wellbeing of older adults. And these increased duties can also impact the physical and mental health of the caregiver.  Indeed, the National Institute of Health reported that this “invisible work” takes a toll on the caregiver.  From managing emotional and physical stress to increased financial burden and reduced productivity at work, unpaid caregivers experience real change in their lives when they are committed to a caregiving or care management role.

Respite care, a valuable resource

Respite care is a short-term approach to managing a change in the caregiving routine, and is a sensible and often underutilized method of providing rest for unpaid caregivers. Respite care can be delivered in a home environment (by engaging in-home services) or in a more structured senior living environment such as an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility. Medical respite can also be provided for tasks that the caregiver might not be physically able to perform such as assisting with bathing or physical therapy. In all cases, it usually includes support with activities of daily living but can also include the support of skilled nursing for more complicated medical care.

Caregivers are sometimes reluctant to receive assistance or support in their caregiving duties because they feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for their care recipients. Some caregivers use respite care to cover planned vacation or any other foreseeably busy time, such as a big deadline at work, a planned surgery for the caregiver, or even just when a family caregiver might need a break from daily responsibility. Indeed, a study on respite care for caregivers of dementia patients found that respite care can provide a “reset” after significant events, such as diagnosis or other events.

How to find a respite care program

Most assisted living communities or skilled nursing facilities will offer some kind of respite care solution. You can also use an online resource like the National Respite Network to search for respite care providers.  After all, it’s a wonderful way to “test the waters” of senior living. If you’d like to explore a structured respite stay, here are five tips:

  • Know your options.  It's helpful to research several communities at once in order to be able to compare and contrast.You’ll want the first respite stay to be a positive experience, so tour the facilities in which you are interested to assess not only competency but style.  Will your loved one want a small and intimate setting that feels more like home? Or a large community that might feel more like a hotel stay? 
  • Book early. If you’re among the 54% of  “sandwich generation” caregivers, your vacation times might coincide with the rest of the country. It’s helpful to plan ahead so that you can ensure availability and focus on planning for your own care.
  • Plan for paperwork. For almost any respite stay solution, there will be paperwork involved.  Ensure medical records are up to date and that any prescriptions needed have been refilled. And don’t forget to keep those prescription bottles - many respite stay providers will insist on dispensing medication from the original prescription containers. 
  • Build your support team. Find other family members or friends who can be “on call” while you are engaging respite care. After all, it’s not much of a break if you are still managing care from afar!  

Alternative Solutions

While respite care is a wonderful option, it tends to be time-bound and short-term.  There are also some great options for incorporating more regular support for caregivers:

Adult day care centers. Research cites adult day care as a valuable resource for caregivers. These structured programs provide regular support for engagement and socialization, and reliable opportunities for caregiver breaks - whether that is used for rest, exercise or running errands. If you are  a member of the paid workforce, check with your human resources department. Some employer benefits will cover adult day care fees. 

Volunteerism. For the civic-minded and others, volunteerism can provide purpose, engagement and activity for the care recipient and time off for the caregiver.. Check out AmeriCorps Seniors to find opportunities in your area. 

Companion Care. Search your area for companion care solutions. Some local providers will offer resources to visit with your care recipient. Even these small supports can reduce the sometimes overwhelming feeling of responsibility the caregiver manages.

Care for the Caregiver

The main benefit of respite care – across the board – is that it enables the family caregiver to reset. Sometimes older adults may need more care than what can be accommodated in their own homes, especially as we age. And although elderly loved ones can be cherished members of a household, there might be times when they need more care, or when their caregivers simply need a break. Respite care helps both patients and usual caregivers to ensure everyone’s needs are met efficiently.

Works consulted:

  • Emily Roberts. "The Impact of Respite Programming on Caregiver Resilience in Dementia Care: A Qualitative Examination of Family Caregiver Perspectives." Feb 9, 2018.
  • Juliana Menasce Horowitz. "More than half of Americans in their 40s are ‘sandwiched’ between an aging parent and their own children." Apr 8, 2022.
  • Richard E. Oliver. "Adult Day Care: An Important Long-Term Care Alternative & Potential Cost Saver." May 1, 2013.
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    written by:
    Emma Rodbro

    Emma Rodbro

    Emma Rodbro is Seniorly’s Head of Product Experience & Operations. Emma’s passion for reducing social isolation in aging populations was undoubtedly influenced by her own experience as a teenager and spending time with her grandfather. Emma went on to earn her Bachelor or Arts in Public Health and Sociology from Brown University and holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley. When she’s not at work, Emma is a volunteer at DOROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of an aging population.

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