HomeHealthWhat is Respite Care for Older Adults?

What is Respite Care for Older Adults?

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Kathy takes care of her 90-year-old mother, who has memory loss. She makes all her mother’s meals, helps her dress each morning, and manages her medication. After several incidents, Kathy realized her mother couldn’t be at home alone. One day, her mom wandered outside and got lost. Another time, she left a pot burning on the stove, ruining the pot and smoking up the entire house.

But caring for her mother 24/7 is exhausting. Kathy’s in-laws rent a lake house and invited her to join them for a week. It would be the perfect opportunity for Kathy to rest and unwind. But what about her mom?

What is Respite Care for Older Adults?

Kathy found respite care for her mother and booked a plane ticket. Respite care is short-term relief for caregivers. Professional caregivers support the older adult for hours, days, or even weeks to allow the primary caregiver a break.

Types Of Respite Services

There are different respite services to consider based on the older adult’s level of care and the duration needed. Respite care can be in-home service or in a senior community. 

In-home Care 

Most people find home health providers through a care agency. Homemakers or care professionals come in to assist with health care, daily activities or basic tasks like meal preparation. 

Adult Day Care Centers 

When caregivers need help during weekdays, adult day care lets seniors socialize and enjoy planned activities.

Residential Care

Some assisted living or memory care facilities allow older adults to move in temporarily for varied lengths of time. Older adults stay in private apartments and take advantage of the community’s support services and amenities. This allows caregivers to get away for a vacation.

Benefits of Respite Care

Often, caregivers feel guilty about taking time for themselves, but respite care benefits older adults.

Seniors who spend all their time at home may enjoy meeting new friends. Care communities typically offer activities like art classes, music, games, exercise classes, and gardening. Guests enjoy meals with others in a restaurant-style dining room. They also get to “test drive” a senior community to see if it is a good fit.

For caregivers, respite care is a chance to refresh and recharge. They can get away and have peace of mind knowing professionals are assisting their loved ones. Using respite care provides a vacation from caregiving, time to socialize with friends and family, or the chance to do nothing. 

Occasional breaks can help prevent burnout, a common problem for caregivers. Having professional insight regarding your loved one’s care and routines is also beneficial. The interim care professionals may have tips on handling caregiving tasks. 

Finding Respite Care

Use resources like the ARCH National Respite Network to find respite care providers in your area. To help seniors with memory loss, the Alzheimer’s Association has resources to help you assess your care needs. It also has a directory of providers and a checklist to use in screening care facilities.

When you visit a residential community, note the following:

  • Do you feel welcome? Are staff members friendly?
  • Are residents in good spirits and friendly with each other?
  • Is the facility clean and pleasantly decorated?
  • What kinds of activities do they offer to residents?
  • Do caregivers help with activities of daily living, like medication management, dressing, and bathing?
  • Look at a typical apartment and look for safety features like grab bars in the bathroom.

When touring an adult day care center, pay attention to:

  • Is the staff friendly?
  • Are interactions between the staff and participants cheerful? 
  • Did they describe the activities and services offered?
  • Is the center wheelchair accessible?
  • Is the facility clean and odor-free?

Paying for Respite Care

Most health insurance doesn’t cover respite care. But Medicare covers up to five days of respite care for a person in hospice. 

If your loved one has long-term care insurance, it typically covers respite care and ongoing use of adult day care, assisted living, or skilled nursing up to the policy limits. But they can’t buy one now if they don’t have a policy. You won’t qualify for long-term care insurance if you are disabled or diagnosed with memory loss. See this guide from the National Institute on Aging for more information on resources to cover respite care.

Respite Care for Older Adults

Caring for an older family member is a demanding job that can lead to burnout. If you’re a caregiver, protect your physical and emotional health by taking breaks whenever possible and using respite care to look after your loved one. Depending on their health condition, they may enjoy socializing and extra activities. Meanwhile, you can rest, recover and enjoy some quiet time.

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