What Is Respite Care?

This post originally appeared at care.com. It is an excellent explanation of respite care.

When caregivers hear about respite care, they might just be too busy in their daily lives to take the time to find out more about it. But respite care is nothing complicated — it’s simply relief from caregiving duties when you’re looking after a loved one who requires frequent, monitored care.

Caregivers who tend to seniors, those who are physically or emotionally challenged, or individuals with special needs are often in need of a little time off from their round-the-clock caregiving. That’s where respite care comes in. It helps ward off the burnout that can leave caregivers depressed, stressed out and exhausted.

Caregivers should never feel guilty about establishing a schedule of respite care. It doesn’t mean you resent your care duties or you want someone else to do your work. Respite care actually allows you to be a better caregiver because you can take some time to relax and refresh. Caregivers often return from a break, even if it’s just two hours to have lunch with a friend, feeling a renewed energy for caregiving.

Approach respite care as you would a personal medical issue — you can’t take care of anyone else well if you’re not taking care of yourself.

Who Needs Respite?

Anyone acting as a primary caregiver is in need of and deserves some kind of respite. Caregivers must remember they cannot do the job alone — it’s impossible.

As caregivers are all too aware, loved ones depend on them, and many don’t know how or when to take a break.

“Many people just don’t know respite care is out there,” says Kelli Davidson, author of “Taking Care of Mom and Dad – A Baby Boomers Resource Guide.” “They get to the point of getting ill and then someone says to them: ‘Don’t you know you can get some help for this?'”

If you’re caring for an aging loved one, take a look at our Senior Care Guide to learn more.

If you’re caring for someone with special needs, take a look at our Special Needs Respite Care Guide.

What Does “Respite” Mean?

Respite allows you to take time off from caregiving duties while someone else cares for your loved one. You can lean on family and friends to come in, use the services of a care facility to provide respite care or hire a special needs caregiver or senior care aide. If your loved one requires medical assistance, hiring trained professional help is probably the best solution.

How Long Does Respite Care Last?

The length of time respite care lasts is entirely up to you. You can leave for an afternoon, a weekend away or even a week’s vacation. Just make sure you’re taking some time off to refresh yourself. In addition, regular respite care will help your loved one acclimate to having someone else care for them. If you’re ever unexpectedly unable to provide care, this will be essential to a smooth transition.

Where Can I Get Respite Care?

Respite care is offered in many places. Family and friends are often great sources of relief, but if you don’t have that option or if your loved one needs more skilled care, there are many options available to you.

Skilled medical and non-medical care can come to your loved one’s home to provide care while you are gone. Adult day care is offered through senior centers, some residential facilities and other organizations. But you can also investigate local volunteer groups (from colleges or faith-based groups) and other nonprofit organizations for respite care options.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.