Why is Respite Care Such an Important Part of Elderly Care?

elderly home care

Simply put, elderly home care can be stressful for the caregiver.

In this article we will discuss:

  • What is respite care?
  • Why is it SO important to take a break?
  • Some strategies to obtain respite care.

What is Respite Care?

First, let's start with a basic definition from Wikipedia:  "Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home."

In our experience, when a family decides to keep an aging loved one at home, the entire family states their good intentions.  But usually one member often gets saddled with most of the duties.  In a large majority of the cases, the anointed family caregiver ends up being the eldest daughter.

Often the elder is moved into one of the family member's homes and that person becomes the primary caregiver, either by plan or by accident.  Sometimes the goal is to keep the elderly individual in their own homes, and then the care usually falls to the nearest family member.

Regardless of how it happens, one individual now becomes the primary caregiver.  Often, this means significant sacrifices on their part in order to meet the elder's needs, especially if the elderly home care individual is unable to be left alone for any length of time.

Why is it SO Important to Take a Break?

A 2005 research study by the Commonwealth Fund revealed that 60% of family caregivers age 19-64 surveyed reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with only 33% of non caregivers.  Clearly, there is a physical toll.

But there is also an emotional toll.  Caregivers in elderly home care situations often report a variety of negative emotional states to their doctors, clergy, and friends including: depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt and resentment, social withdraw, lack of energy, and hopelessness about the future.  So there can also be a substantial psychological and social toll as well.

The Alzheimer's Association reports, "Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.1 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2012." Wow!

Some Strategies to Obtain Respite Care

First, and foremost, it is important to recognize the need for a break, and ASK FOR HELP!  Family members, neighbors, friends, fellow parishioners can all be sources of occasional help, allowing you to get out of the house.

But what if your elderly loved one needs constant supervision and personal care?  Sometimes these good Samaritans aren't comfortable taking on that level of responsibility.  Here are a few professional options:

  1. Adult Day Care - these centers offer safety, often a nice meal, and limited personal care.  They are commonly used while caregivers attend to their own paid jobs.
  2. Specialized Facilities - if you want to be out of town for a few days to a few weeks, check out local nursing facilities in your area.  Many offer short-term respite stays for your loved ones while you are away.
  3. In-home Care - by companies like Seniors Helping Seniors®.  We are a state licensed agency employing loving, compassionate caregivers, many of whom are active seniors themselves.

Here are some examples of how our clients use us for respite care:

  • An elderly woman who cares for her husband with dementia has our caregiver spend about 5 hours with her husband every Sunday.  She goes to church, has lunch with friends, then takes care of paying her bills and other household paperwork before returning home.  Our caregiver makes sure her husband is safe, is drinking fluids, eats lunch, and may play a game with him or read the newspaper.
  • A daughter who cares for her father with very limited verbalization and mobility calls upon our caregiver to keep an eye on her father while she attends to her personal doctor's appointments or errands.  She typically needs us a few times a month for a few hours.  She was very excited when one of our caregivers got her dad to carry on a short conversation!
  • A family who cares for their aging mother in their home, engages us to spend 24 hours a day with their mother once or twice a year when they go on vacation, typically for about a week at a time.
  • A daughter who cares for her father with Alzheimer's in her home, engages us most weekdays while she goes to work.  Our caregivers help her father to get dressed in the morning, take him to the local senior center, makes sure he eats lunch, and ensures his safety.  They also engage in activities to stimulate him cognitively when at home.


To learn more about respite care for elderly home care, you can check out these links:

Alzheimer's Association on Respite Care

Eldercare.gov (from the Administration on Aging)

ARCH National Respite Network - The ABC's of Respite Care