What is Respite Care?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Respite care is substitute or relief care for people with disabilities, mental illnesses, or other conditions that require a high level of attention. It takes the place of everyday care provided by family members and other types of caregivers. Respite care allows a person's regular caregiver to enjoy a temporary break from caring for the person in question.

Sometimes respite care is provided by family members or friends of the person in need of care. This may allow the regular caregiver to have much needed time to run errands, see to her own health, relax, or enjoy recreational pursuits. In other cases, care may be provided by a paid respite caregiver, an adult daycare center, a residential program, or a respite camp. Depending on the needs of the recipient and caregiver, respite care may be provided in the home setting or outside the home.

In-home respite care may reduce stress on the recipient, as she doesn’t have to adjust to a new environment. It may also make things easier for the caregiver, who doesn’t have to transport the recipient to a new location. There’s no concern about whether or not the new environment will be equipped to meet the recipient’s needs with in-home respite. This option may also prove helpful for those dealing with pain that makes moving uncomfortable.


Out-of-home respite care offers the recipient a change of environment, and some facilities accept people for both planned and emergency stays. At an adult day care center, for example, a recipient may participate in planned activities, socialize with other adults and enjoy prepared meals. Typically, these centers are available during the day, five days each week. Residential respite programs may include those offered by group homes and nursing facilities. They may provide respite services for longer periods of time, including overnight stays.

To arrange in-home respite care, a person's caregiver or family members may advertise for an independent provider. In such a case, candidates will have to be screened and interviewed. Caregivers typically check a respite provider’s references and verify the information provided on an employment application. This is a particularly important step, as it’s difficult to gauge a person’s trustworthiness and competency without verifying the information she provides. If a caregiver has decided to use a center or residential program for out-of-home respite, however, she may visit facilities, talk to staff members and verify their licensing.

Some caregivers decide to use agencies or referral services to find respite care. An agency may handle the whole process of finding providers and screening them. Agencies often provide substitutes if the chosen provider is unavailable as well. Referral services typically match caregivers or family members in need with providers and programs.


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Post 1

When my husband and I needed a break, my sister wasn't available to help with my mom, so we contacted an assisted living facility that provides residential respite care. Basically, it was like getting her to a nice hotel for several days.

I didn't have to worry about her not getting meals or anything. She actually enjoyed it too, and said it was a vacation for her. Someone was always around to keep an eye on her and we could relax completely and enjoy our vacation. It was fantastic. Yes, it cost money, but I think it was cheaper than having someone come in, and it was a flat rate that included everything. We couldn't have been more pleased.

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