What is Respite Care?

Respite care refers to a type of care that provides a break for the caregiver of an adult or child with special needs. A person with a social work degree might assist a caregiver in identifying resources for this type of care or may be involved in providing it. This care can be critical to the mental health and continued functioning of a caregiver.

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Benefits of Respite Care

There is a public perception that caregivers are endlessly giving, selfless individuals who devote themselves to caring for a loved one suffering from an illness. While this is partly true, it is also impossible for anyone to live up to. Everyone, including the most dedicated caregiver, needs a break now and then, and this is what respite care provides. Benefits for the caregiver include time to get errands and other chores done that are impossible to do with the patient there as well as leisure time to catch up with friends or other family members or engage in another pleasurable activity. Patients may benefit from it as well. For example, depending on the type of care, they may be able to spend time with others who have a similar condition or might get the opportunity to engage in stimulating activities in a safe environment.

Types of Respite Care

There are a number of different types of respite care, and the care may last for a few hours to a few weeks. The care may be focused on the individual or it might be in a group setting. It may occur in the person's home, or it might be at a day care center or a residential facility. As The New York Times describes in an article on respite for caregivers, one facility offered caregivers and their loved ones cruises to the Caribbean.

In-home care may provide many different types of assistance including dressing, bathing, administering medications, exercising or other activities. There are also adult day care centers where people with Alzheimer's or other conditions can take part in activities such as art and music. At residential care facilities, people may stay for a longer period of time, from a few days to a few weeks.

Barriers to Respite Care

One of the biggest barriers to this type of care is cost. A person with a social work degree may be able to assist caregivers in either finding ways to pay for care or finding low-cost programs. Insurance often does not cover this kind of care. In certain circumstances, Medicare or Medicaid might. However, another significant barrier to care is the concern of the caregiver. As described by the Alzheimer's Association, some caregivers may suffer from guilt if they are unable to provide round-the-clock care. They may also be concerned about the comfort and safety of their loved one in a new environment. It is important for caregivers to recognize that they will be more effective if they are able to get breaks from time to time.

Respite care is crucial for both the mental and physical health of caregivers, but too few have the opportunity to access it. People with a social work degree may be able to do a great deal to assist caregivers in finding programs to enrich their loved ones' lives and give them a much-needed break.