The first step is to find out what kind of respite care is available in your community by contacting your physician, hospital social worker, church, Agency on Aging, or private organizations that focus on senior issues. The next step is to compare differences between in-home and out-of-home care to ascertain which best fills the needs and preferences of both caregiver and care receiver.

In-Home Providers

Professional caregivers can be hired through home nurse agencies or other private agencies that focus on providing medical or non-medical helpers on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. Non-professional caregivers cam be another family member, friend, neighbor or a volunteer from a church program, senior center or non-profit agency.

Out-of-Home Providers

  • Around-the-clock Care. Depending on the level of medical care needed, out-of-home respite care can be arranged at many hospitals, nursing homes, private residential facilities or hospice facilities. The choice depends on the degree of nursing skills required. If the recipient’s needs are primarily non-medical, a residential facility that provides basic care and companionship in a home-like atmosphere is often the best choice.
  • Adult Day Care. Many communities have adult day care facilities that allow caregivers to go to work, run errands or handle personal business knowing that their loved one is being well taken care of. Adult day care centers usually operate during daytime hours on Monday through Friday.  These centers provide companionship, help with daily functions, a healthy lunch, nutritious snacks and such social activities as arts/crafts, games, and movies.,

Things to Look For

  • When considering a caregiver provided by an agency or other organization, look into how potential candidates are trained as well as the individual’s experience and ability to fill the recipient’s specific needs. Ask to speak to the caregiver being assigned to your case beforehand, and try to arrange a meeting between the individual and your loved one, especially if you are taking an extended period of time off. It’s wise to use a respite caregiver a few times before engaging her/him for a more lengthy stint, like a weeklong vacation.  Always request references and speak with someone who has used that agency/organization and, when possible, the individual candidate.
  • When considering an out-of-home facility, try to visit several facilities to observe and compare cleanliness, content/discontent of residents, how the staff relates to patients, safety features, and overall appeal of the environment. If possible, arrange a visit with your loved one. Again, always ask for references and speak personally to someone who has placed a care recipient in that facility.

Questions to Ask Potential In-Home Caregivers

  • Are you receptive to following specific instructions?
  • What are your special skills?
  • Do you have experience with patients with similar needs?
  • Can you transport the patient if necessary?
  • Are you equipped to handle emergencies like a power outage or patient fall?
  • Why do you want to be a caregiver?

Questions for Agency Managers

  • Can we be assured of getting the same caregiver all or most of the time?
  • Is there a Plan B if the caregiver becomes ill or suddenly unavailable?
  • How does the agency screen potential caregivers? Are background checks done?
  • Does the agency have all required state licenses/certifications?

Questions for Out-of-Home Facilities

  • How much advance notice is needed to secure a room?
  • Does the facility keep a record of the care receiver’s medical condition and needs?
  • How is the facility prepared for emergencies?
  • How is staff screened, trained, supervised and evaluated?
  • Are resident food preferences considered?
  • What kind of activities and entertainment are provided?
  • What is specifically included/not included in the fee?

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