Respite Care: Relief for the Caregiver

By Mike Mather, ARCH

Re-Published with permission by - the Community for Caregivers


“I love him but I just can’t do it anymore. The physical and emotional demands are causing me to lose my own health. Soon, I will be in the same shape that he is in. I need some help.”

Statements like this are common among family members and caregivers caring for loved ones such as the elderly with disabilities, chronic illnesses and other conditions that require around-the-clock care. Even though most families take great joy in providing care to their loved ones so that they can remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences can be overwhelming without some support, such as respite. Respite provides the much needed temporary break from the often exhausting challenges imposed by constant caregiving.

Respite care provides, short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. Research has shown that providing this type of help can have a positive effect on the health of the caregiver.

Without respite, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, caregivers themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving. Three fifths of family caregivers age 19-64 surveyed recently by the Commonwealth Fund reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with only one-third of non caregivers.
A Commonwealth Fund study of elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) found that caregivers who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.

Many caregivers may also find themselves in crisis situations due to job loss, homelessness, substance abuse or their own ill health. A temporary haven to insure the safety of the person for whom they provide constant care becomes an absolute necessity.

Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and wellbeing, avoid or delay out-of-home placements, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. According to the ARCH National Respite Network, data from an outcome based evaluation pilot study show that respite may also reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages.

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