Many of us get to the point in our lives when we have to take care of older or sick family members, especially our very own parents. It can start with just a little assistance doing the shopping, cleaning or making meals, but it can quickly turn into a full-fledged medical -level care around the clock. Next thing you know, you are the main caregiver bathing your family member, assisting with toilet visits, doling out meds and doing everything you can to take care of the elderly person in your life. Not everyone has the luxury of time to do so, and even then, this task called respite care can feel monumental.

It can lead to complete "caregiver burnout," marked by mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of guilt and general overwhelm. You yourself can end up getting sick. This is a clear indicator that it's time for respite care so you can get a break, rest and recharge your batteries.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 50 million people provide assistance for elderly or disabled family members. According to studies, this unpaid gig amounts to more than $450 billion annually with a time investment of about 20.4 hours per week of providing care. If you live with the person, you're assisting; this can add up to a whopping average of 39.3 hours per week. It sounds like you need a respite, right?

Another respite care scenario involves offering a break for your regular paid or volunteer caregiver. They, too, need time off, whether it is merely to go on vacation or deal with an emergency. What do you do then with your helpless, disabled, lonely or chronically ill family member? They still need help and ASAP.

Finally, it could be that your family has decided to try out assisted senior living to see if it's a choice for the elderly person in your life. In this case, you select a stay at an assisted living or senior facility to see how they like it, try it on for size, so to speak. Last but not least, there's the sad reality that elderly people at the end of their lives need to stay in a facility rather than at home, especially if they are bedridden. This is where another type of respite senior assistance comes in.

As you can see, there are many cases in which respite care for the elderly becomes a crucial and serious topic in your life, sometimes rather suddenly. So it's important to be aware of all of your options, even before the situation occurs. Read on to find out what respite care entails, what types and benefits there are and what to look out for.

What Is Respite Care?

If you're not familiar with this terminology but it sounds like someone is enjoying or experiencing a "respite" while being "cared" for, you're right. This umbrella term can refer to care for the elderly in the form of a short-term stay at a senior living community, a daycare facility, help a friend, volunteer or paid service coming to the house to assist with all manner of needs (from bathing to dressing to medical care), homemaker and maid services or even just companionship.

Respite care can include skilled nursing care, memory care, assisted living, medication management and basically around-the-clock care to feel fully cared for or to make a speedy recovery, depending on the client's specific needs. Services range from nutritious meals to engaging activities, transportation to the doctor's, personal grooming, exercising and more. Residential facilities are great because they offer the option for a stay overnight whether for just a couple of days or several weeks.

elderly waving hand

When would you consider this short-term solution for family members? You'd opt for it when they're an in-house or permanent caregiver is not available due to illness or time off or due to burnout, to try out how permanent senior living would work, to recover after a hospital stay or pertaining to other health-related circumstances.

The reasons are subjective, and luckily there are many scenarios available as detailed below.Overnight care allows caregivers to take an extended break or vacation while the person with dementia stays in a supervised, safe environment. The cost of these services varies and is usually not covered by insurance or Medicare.

5 Types of Elderly Respite Care

1. At Home Care

elderly man and his daughter

Respite care at home can be provided by a skilled and experienced paid service that comes to the elderly person's home to assist with bathing, going to the bathroom, grooming, dressing, exercising, meals, meds, medical services and more. This option is great for cases where the elderly person is adamant about staying in their very own home want their familiar surroundings, or when the family has decided the loved one is simply not yet ready for a stay at a facility, whether short-term, temporary or long-term.

2. Adult Daycare

elderly watching a game

The elderly person stays at a facility for just the day, sometimes just a couple days a week or the entire week, depending on need. Many daycare facilities offer transportation services, so the family member is picked up and dropped off at their home. This option is great for people whose primary family caretaker (like a son or daughter) needs to go to work.

Many daycares are open from the early morning to the evening, so seniors can be assisted and taken care of during daytime hours and return to their homes at night. At the daycare, they can connect with others, feel less lonely, be engaged in activities and games, get their meals and meds and more. Many daycare facilities offer hospice care for bedridden elderly persons or those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

3. Short-Term Stay at a Senior Living Community

senior community

The person stays in a senior or assisted living community or facility for several days, weeks or a couple of months to allow their daily caretaker a break whether it's from stress overwhelm, work, vacation or whatever their reasons may be. They, too, need a respite. It's also a great way for a family to see if senior living is a long-term commitment they are ready for or to check out and test drive a particular facility for its services, amenities, and quality.

What you get at these places is not just around the clock care via meals, housekeeping, activities and more, but also the chance to connect with other elderly "visitors" to alleviate loneliness and feel connected.

4. Companion Services

group of elders having fun

The elderly individual might feel lonely and benefit from companionship and supervised activities. Caretakers might take them on walks, play games, give a massage or just converse.

5. Homemaker or Maid Services

elderly woman assisted by homemaker in household chores

This type of respite care refers to help with laundry, cleaning up, shopping and meal preparation.

Benefits of Respite Elderly Care

1. You or Your Caretaker Gets a Break That May Be Necessary for Your Own Health and Well-Being.
2. Peace of Mind Knowing Your Family Member is in Qualified, Caring Hands
3. You Get Them the Professional Help You Cannot Provide Yourself

Cost of Respite Elderly Care

Respite care is not cheap, as you can imagine, but it also varies a lot. It can range from $300 a day to $4,000-$10,000 a month. The average rate of an in-home caregiver is about $21 per hour. According to The Genworth Cost of Care Survey in 2017, the national average daily cost of homemaker services is $131, or $135 for health aide into your home was $135, with adult day care services amounting to $70. The average daily price for an assisted living facility amounts to $123.

We suggest you see if financial assistance is available to you in the form of government programs, sliding scale fees and scholarship. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, contact the Alzheimer's Association for information. Medicare may pay for up to five days, and Medicaid might also cover respite care. The Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) might also cover respite care in some cases.

A Final Word

The most important factor aside from financial considerations regarding respite care is being able to locate a dependable, qualified and skilled individual or a facility that is reliable, trustworthy, clean and accountable. Research your choice well. If you’re hiring an individual, be sure to do due diligence, check references and make sure they’re certified. If opting for assisted living, carefully investigate the place and make sure it lives up to the highest standards and has all the necessary certifications.

We can share with you that we have experienced cases of an elderly family member being completely dehydrated and requiring hospitalization after a stay at an assisted living facility and another developing necrosis that was completely neglected by the doctors or nurses at the hospice. This is not to scare you but to alert you to the fact that these negative scenarios can be a reality.

Finally, a word on guilt. Choosing someone else to take care of your elderly family member or close friend can cause one to wrestle with one’s conscience and cause quite a bit of guilt. Please know that you’re not alone and that you, too, deserve a stressfree, manageable and fulfilling life and cannot take care of yourself and anyone else if you’re suffering from caregiver burnout. Remember that respite services are crucial for your own health as much as that of the person in need for elderly care.


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