Respite Services

August 3, 2010

Respite is a term used to describe time taken by the caregiver for rest and rejuvenation from the demands of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other long-term illnesses. This “time out” is just as important for the Alzheimer’s sufferer as it is for the caregiver. Caregivers need time away from their caregiving responsibilities to pursue personal interests, socialize with friends and family, or simply to take a break. Though caregivers often feel guilty leaving their loved one in the care of someone else, it is imperative for both parties. Caregivers who neglect their own physical and emotional health may be ill-equipped to meet the daily challenges of caregiving.

What are the different types of respite services?

Out-of-home Respite:

  • Assisted-Living Facilities (ALFs) – ALFs usually have specific guidelines about how and when they will provide respite services. For instance, some will only provide services if the person with the disease is staying for two weeks or more, while others will accept people for the weekend. Some facilities will only accept people for respite services when their resident census is low and they have extra space. Be aware that every ALF may not provide respite care. Make sure to ask what their respite policy is before making any plans.
  • Nursing Homes – Nursing homes provide respite services more regularly then ALFs but they, too, have their own individual policies and may differ depending on their resident census. Make sure to find out first.

NOTE: Not all ALFs and nursing homes have the expertise to take care of people with Alzheimer’s. When you are speaking to the facilities, be sure to ask whether the facility is able to furnish this specialized care.

In-home respite care:

  • Home-Care Services – The difference between “home healthcare” in the form of custodial care and “home respite services” is the temporary nature of respite help. When calling the home-health agency, make sure to specify whether you are looking for 24-hour respite care or daily respite care. Not all agencies will provide 24-hour care and it can be quite costly.

NOTE: Not all home-care agencies have the expertise to take care of people with Alzheimer’s. Be sure to ask if they do when speaking to them.

Are respite services covered by insurance?
Unfortunately, neither Medicare nor Medicaid covers respite services. Private insurance plans vary in their coverage; check with your plan’s administrator or the respite provider to find out if the services are covered.

Where can I locate respite services in my area?
Respite comes in many forms, as discussed elsewhere in this section, and may be offered by a number of different types of continuing-care agencies or facilities. To locate respite services in your area, your best bet is to contact your local agency on aging or work through a geriatric care manager. They can refer you to appropriate services that will meet your specific needs.

What questions do I ask when I call the respite service providers?

  • Do you provide respite services? If so, how does the program work?
  • Are there a minimum number of days/hours you must sign up for?
  • Do you accept people with Alzheimer’s disease? If so… How far into the disease will you care for them?
  • Is your staff trained to specifically care for people with the disease?
  • What are your limitations regarding the individual’s needs?
  • What type of activities do you provide that are designed for people with Alzheimer’s?
  • How many people with Alzheimer’s do you currently serve?
  • What types of healthcare professionals are on staff? What kind of care do they provide?
  • What is the ratio of staff to persons being cared for?
  • Are meals included?
  • Do you accept state funding (Medicaid)?
  • Is transportation included?
  • Will you administer medications?
  • How do you handle episodes of incontinence?

More information is available from the National Institutes of Health: Alzheimer’s Caregiver


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