Can’t catch a break? Respite care can help.

Are you the one others always turn to? Can’t catch a break because people depend on you? When it all feels like a lot, respite care can help by giving our brains and bodies a temporary break from caring for others. Keep reading to learn more about what respite care is and how to get it.

What is respite care?

Respite care is for anyone who cares for someone else. It provides a short-term break from care-related responsibilities, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

If worrying about those you’re leaving behind keeps you from having the time you need, respite care can offer support. When you need to step away, it can be a relief knowing there are other people or services that can step in (at least for a little while). When respite care is available, it can help make space in your schedule for essential tasks like:

  • Going to school for parent-teacher meetings
  • Attending school events (e.g. son/daughter is in a play, sports events like a football games, etc.)
  • Leaving for an offsite work meeting
  • Having a personal doctor/dental appointment
  • Attending a social event (e.g. wedding, work function, etc.)

Respite also gives you an opportunity to spend time on things that can’t be or aren’t always a priority when caregiving – things like taking a long shower, exercising, and hanging out with the people who fill your cup. 

Benefits of respite care

Humans aren’t batteries, but “recharging” feels like an apt (albeit tried and true) metaphor to use when describing the benefits of respite which include:

  • Creating more windows of available time: We all need time to ourselves sometimes for our well-being and sense of autonomy.
  • Reducing stress and anxiety: Being able to decompress, even for a couple of minutes, can help ease the mental and emotional intensity of caring.
  • Improving physical health: Whatever being active and healthy looks like for you, there’s no doubt that putting your health and wellbeing first feels good.

The ones you care about also benefit from respite care. Aside from getting a break from you — kidding! — they get a chance to meet both new and familiar faces on a regular basis. It extends your community of support, which can bring peace of mind to both you and the one(s) you’re caring for.

Types of respite care

Professional respite care is available through government-funded programs, non-profit organizations, and private respite care providers. Most services fall under these categories:

Adult day health

  • Offers an alternative place to stay during the day with thoughtful, engaging programming including meals and exercise.
  • Creates an environment where new friends and peer support can be found.
  • How long can you get it? Adult day health typically operates during regular business, Monday through Friday. This can be a good option when you need a few hours to run errands or attend certain social or volunteer commitments.

In-home help/companion services

  • Vetted and trained direct care workers provide support in the home, which is the environment most people prefer if given the option.
  • Ensures the care recipient gets whatever level of social and medical attention they want or need.
  • How long can you get it? In-home health and companion services are available throughout the day, in the evenings, and on weekends.

Residential or skilled nursing facility (SNF)

  • Temporary stay at places like a rehab center or assisted living community.
  • Offers more specialized, hands-on care and support.
  • How long can you get it? Stays can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

Using respite care

Now that you know what respite care is and what options are available, having a plan can make it easier to get it when you really need it.

Plan ahead & stay organized

Determine the amount of time needed for respite care. The type of support you can get changes depending on whether you need a few hours or an entire day. Keep in mind that many long-term facilities require advance notice and scheduling.

Family, friends, and neighbors can be caregivers too. If you have this type of support, keep a contact list — digital is great, physical also works — of the people you know and trust who can step in when you need to run errands and in case of an emergency or a last-minute obligation. Consider creating a group text so you can reach out quickly when needed and everyone has everyone else’s contact information.

Find out what’s driving your caregiver intensity

Whatever caregiving looks like you for, the intensity of it can be a lot and impacts all aspects of our lives including our mental health — 70% of unpaid caregivers have experienced anxiety, stress, or depression because of caregiving.

Get your score and pinpoint what’s going well and where you could use additional support caring for others. You will also be directed to national, state, and condition-specific resources that can help. Knowing the underlying cause of your intensity can also help you figure out what kind of respite care will best serve you right now.

Identify community resources available that can help

You don’t have to track down resources on your own. Boston Senior Home Care (BSHC) has already done the work for you.

BSHC has access to a wide range of respite providers — like adult day homes, home care agencies, and SNFs. These providers have been carefully screened to ensure quality, trusted care. A caregiver advisor can guide you through the process of getting the support you need and help you choose the respite services that are right for you and your loved one like:  

  • Self-help
    • Support groups are available online so you can join at home or from the office.
    • Trualta’s online content library covers hundreds of topics including cognitive decline and dementia, personal care, challenging behaviors, in-home safety, and caregiver wellness — just to name a few!
  • Adult day health programs
  • Long-term care options
  • Residential caregiving programs
  • Dementia care programs

All respite counts

There’s no right way to get respite. Sitting outside, drinking a cup a coffee or tea alone…it all counts. Even a couple of minutes to yourself throughout the day can make a difference.

It’s okay to want — and get — “me” time

If you’re feeling hesitation at that thought of taking a break, you’re not alone. It is totally normal to experience mixed feelings about stepping away. But needing time for ourselves makes us human. Taking the best care of others starts with putting our air masks on first and showing ourselves some love too.

This educational article was prepared by ARCHANGELS and Boston Senior Home Care.