The Basics of Respite Care

Caregivers who use respite care often tell me that although caregiving is one of the most rewarding jobs they've ever had, they couldn't do it without a break now and then. The emotional and physical demands of senior care make it hard to do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Without respite care -- a temporary break from the demands of caregiving -- you may be more susceptible to stress, depression, exhaustion and other health problems.

Where to Find Respite Care

Finding respite care might seem overwhelming, but investing a little time in researching local services could lead to a respite care arrangement that can help keep your parents at home for a longer period of time. Many nonprofit and government organizations can help you find respite care services. Great places to start are the Eldercare Locator or your local Alzheimer's Association.

In-Home Senior Care, Adult Day Care, or Both?

If you need someone to come to your parents' home a few hours a week, try in-home senior care, where home care aides can provide light housekeeping, meal preparation, and personal assistance with bathing and dressing. If you like the idea of having one or more parents attend a community-based program, try adult day care, which provides socialization and activities as well as personal assistance. Some caregivers use both in-home senior care and adult day care when more comprehensive respite care is needed.

Get the Whole Family Involved

If you're the primary caregiver for your parents but other family members are involved in care decisions, it's important to make sure everyone understands why you need respite care and supports this need. Have a family meeting to decide whether to use in-home senior care, adult day care, or both, who will research local respite care options, and how finances will be handled. Making decisions together now can prevent disputes and misunderstandings down the road.

Do you use respite care? If so, do you primarily use in-home senior care, adult day care, or both? What success strategies can you share for finding and utilizing respite services? Finally, how have respite services benefited your parents, and how have they helped you as a caregiver? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to join our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on

--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D

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