Respite Care

Respite services provide a temporary break for the caregivers of the frail elderly or disabled, chronically ill individuals. The application of the concept to include elder care grew out of a combination of increasing interest in the role of the informal caregiver and the cost containment effort to reduce expenditure involved with institutionalization of the aging population. Services may be provided in or out of the person's home, with in-home services involving a temporary homemaker or home health care. Outside the home, help may include adult day care or temporary stays in nursing homes, group homes, or foster care homes. The type and scope of services, and eligibility for services, vary significantly from state to state.

Research has shown that the ability to free caregivers to care for the nondisabled family members, including themselves, reduced their level of stress, anxiety, and isolation. Time off, even for a few hours a week, can enable the caregiver to continue providing care. Brief periods of emergency relief or prescheduled respite from the physical and emotional strain can reenergize a caregiver and renew his or her dedication to the role. While the variety of respite care options available continues to expand, some caregivers are hesitantto arrange such services due to a fear that others may not provide adequate care. Caregivers should be encouraged to explore the various respite arrangements offered, recognizing that taking care of themselves is vital to their ownwell-being.

Relief from the emotional stress of caregiving can also prevent elder abuse.Family members and caretakers may express frustration in subtle ways, such asfrequently reminding the patient that he is impaired and is a burden, talking to others about the patient as if he were not in the room, and arguing withthe elder about unimportant issues. Potential for elder abuse is greatest when caregivers have no relief from the constant burden of care. The ability tovisit with friends, attend church, or simply spend time alone will promote relaxation and leave the caregiver refreshed and better able to cope with theburdens of caregiving.

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