Respite Care: Lending a Hand to Caregivers

What is respite care?

Respite (RES-pit) care is short-term, temporary care provided to people with disabilities so that their family members can take a break from the daily routine of caregiving. Since caring for a person with serious disabilities is often stressful, taking a vacation, or even just taking a few hours off, can be invaluable. Respite is often referred to as a "gift of time."

Who can benefit from respite services?

All families who care for a disabled child or adult in their home can benefit from respite services, but many families are reluctant to sign up. To see whether you can benefit from respite services, consider these questions:

  • Does caring for your child interfere with scheduling necessary appointments or personal projects?
  • How long has it been since you and your spouse have enjoyed an evening alone together?
  • How long has it been since you enjoyed a special activity with your other children?
  • If you had a family emergency, is there someone you would trust to care for your disabled child?
  • Do you avoid going out because you don't want to impose on the family members and friends who help care for your child?
  • Is it difficult for you to find temporary care for your child?
  • Would you feel comfortable relying on a trained, caring respite provider?

Taking a break from your daily routine may help you avoid burnout, stress, and fatigue. After you relax for a while, you can come back revitalized and better able to care for your son or daughter. The whole family benefits.

Who provides respite services?

Most programs are managed by affiliates or chapters of national organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation, The Arc, the Easter Seal Society, and the United Cerebral Palsy Association. Other programs are managed by local organizations such as churches, schools, and other non-profit groups.

What kinds of services are provided?

The type of service depends on the provider, the needs of the family, and available funds. Some respite programs send a caregiver to the family's home. Others require the child to come to a day care center or respite group home. In some programs, called host family programs or exchange programs, another family provides the care. These families usually have a disabled family member and exchange services with your family.

Emergency respite services, available on short notice, are also very important in helping you deal with an unexpected crisis.

How are respite services funded?

Many programs receive public funding for their services. Some charge fees on a sliding scale based on your family's income. Programs operated by non-profit organizations may be funded by donations or other sources. Many programs use a combination of funding sources to meet their financial needs.

How can I find respite services?

To access more information on the respite services available in your community, visit the websites of the Epilepsy Foundation or the ARCH National Respite Network.

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