Respite Care: An Alternative for Family Caregivers

by Carolyn Wilson-Scott

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Caring for an elderly or disabled family member is a demanding and often stressful endeavor. Many primary caregivers find they need relief for their own well-being and in order to remain at their best for their loved one, and respite services are designed to do just this.

What Are Respite Services? Respite services provide care to seniors so their primary caregivers can take a break and have some time to themselves. These services can take place in or out of the home, and can last for a few hours, overnight, or for a few weeks while the caregiver takes a vacation.

Where Can I Find Respite Care?
When you've exhausted the resources of other family members and friends, here are some professional respite services:
Adult Day Care: These centers offer care for seniors as well as an opportunity to socialize. Programming may feature age-appropriate exercise, music, games, and meals or snacks are often provided. As the name implies, these facilities operate during the day.
In-home Care: Ranges from volunteer companions to skilled nurses and providers of therapy. In-between these options are aides that perform housekeeping services or personal care tasks like bathing and feeding. In-home care can be arranged to fit your scheduling needs.
Residential Care: Specialized facilities, and some nursing homes and hospitals, provide respite services lasting from one overnight to a stay of a few weeks. While there can be emergency-basis beds open, it's best to check out this option in advance.

How Much Do Respite Services Cost?
Cost depends on the type of service you need. Adult day care tends to be the least expensive, at a national average of $10 per hour, according to a 2009 Genworth Financial report. Home care can run you as little as $17.50 an hour for housekeeping tasks performed by an aide not certified through Medicare, and up to $46 for a Medicare-certified provider who can see to personal care and sometimes medical needs. (Despite being Medicare-certified, Medicare doesn't typically cover home care for respite purposes.) The cost for a short-term stay in a nursing home or similar facility seems more expensive at an average of $200 a night for a private room, but this option usually gives you a better deal than hiring around-the-clock home care.