Ideally respite care should be used before the caregiver becomes totally overwhelmed and exhausted. Getting ready for respite care requires an analysis of the needs of both the care receiver and the caregiver in order to determine the type (in-home/out-of-home), skill level, and frequency of care called for.

The Needs of the Person Receivng Care

Carefully observe the care receiver for a few days to recognize his/her abilities and limitations in order to decide what kind of care is most needed. Also, talk to your loved one about his/her requirements and personal preferences. Is help needed with walking, dressing, bathing, eating, exercising, and/or taking medications? Does he/she crave companionship? Like to be read to? Enjoy playing cards or games? Need mental stimulation?  Would he/she prefer one-on-one interaction or group social activities? How does the care receiver feel about being moved from the home? Is there any medical equipment that would be difficult to move to an outside facility?

The Needs of the Caregiver

Keep a log of activities for a week in order to identify the times and areas in which care is given. Are caregiver hours spent mostly giving support? Housecleaning?  Transporting the patient to medical appointments? Preparing meals? Helping with personal grooming?  In addition, consider which would be more beneficial, a weeklong vacation, or regularly scheduled shorter “time-outs.” Respite care is just much for primary caregivers as it is for those in need of care. Getting a much-needed break will help caregivers recoup from the demands of around-the-clock care, allowing them to serve the needs of their loved ones even better.

Getting Others Involved

Talk openly about your needs and difficulties with other family members who may not fully appreciate the situation. Ask these family members what they could reasonably do to share some of the care giving burden.

Join a support group of other caregivers to share your feelings and gather information about in-home and out-of-home respite care in your area. Find support groups by calling your local hospital, senior center or agencies for the aging. Support groups are also widely available online and are especially helpful when you need to talk to someone but can’t leave the house. Support groups are often the source of lifelong friendships.

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