What you should know about respite care

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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During our working careers, most of us are offered time off for vacations. While those times may be a paid benefit ranging from a few days to several weeks, they are recommended to be used to relax, rest, and recharge your mental and physical “batteries” so you can return to work at your best.


Perhaps no job requires that use of time off more than that of a full-time family caregiver. But taking time off as a care provider for a family member requires that person to be temporarily replaced. Enter respite care which is defined as temporary in-home or institutional care of an elderly, disabled, or sick individual. Respite care provides relief to the primary caregiver to prevent their burnout or worse.

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Respite is important. According to an article in the publication AgingCare,”… about 30% of caregivers predecease those for whom they are caring.” More recent studies show that death rate to be as high as 60%, and illnesses among care providers due to fatigue are rampant. Caregivers often don’t find or take time to go to their own doctor appointments or are just too worn out to take time for themselves. Diseases that might be caught in their early stages may not be found until they are much worse or have become life-threatening. 


The point is, when you are a caregiver it’s important to regularly take time for yourself to rest and recharge. One solution is respite or respite care allowing someone else takes to care for your loved one. Time totally away from caregiving allows you to do everyday activities or to relax, deal with stress and look after yourself.


Respite care can be given by family or friends or by a respite service. It can take place at home, or in a residential care location such as an assisted living or nursing home facility. The selection you make for respite can range in time from a few hours each week to a weekend or even one to two-week stays in a facility. Your choice also depends on the level of care required by the patient which can range from providing visits to preparing meals, or in some cases medicine management as well as hands-on care if someone needs assistance with activities of daily living or is bedridden.


If you have a family member, hire a home care agency or use facility-based care to provide respite, there are some important things that you need to know. These include available services, costs involved, and how it is to be paid for.  


Depending on the community in which you live, some assisted living and/or nursing facilities may offer short-term respite care. What you need to know is what is the minimum number of days that are required if a room is available, and what the cost will be.


The cost and payment information are critical because most private insurance providers exclude respite care from their plans. While Medicare may provide for respite, it is not available for in-home care, and is available ONLY when the loved one in need of care is receiving hospice care in a skilled nursing facility. MEDICARE DOES NOT PAY FOR LONG-TERM CUSTODIAL CARE!


There are companies that provide respite services, and some offer up to 24-hour in-home care. But these can be very costly and are typically not covered by insurance. While the need for taking time away as a caregiver is critical, doing some research into the places and providers of this type of care is required. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions that may think of, especially about the qualifications of the facility or in-home services and personnel, the minimum time required by a facility for a respite stay, and the costs involved. 


Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com