Aging Options

If You’re the Primary Caregiver for a Love One, Respite Care Might Provide a Much-Needed Rest – and Prevent Burnout

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Unpaid caregivers tend to have one thing in common: exhaustion. The physical, mental, and emotional demands of providing care to a parent, spouse, relative or friend seem endless, and many caregivers acknowledge that they seldom if ever get a break.

If that describes you, then perhaps a service called respite care is one possible answer. There seems to be a growing number of agencies out there providing a short-term solution to assist exhausted caregivers. In looking into the topic, we found this helpful article on a website called Elder Law Answers. It describes the “what” and “why” of respite care, and also provides some links to help you look into this valuable source of aid and support.

“It is easy to burn out when you are responsible for providing full-time care to an aging or disabled loved one,” the article begins. “In some cases, caregiver burnout can result in resentment toward the individual they care for, despite their love for them. The fact is, we all need a break sometimes. That is why respite care exists.”

Let’s take a look. You may find that respite care is just what you’ve been searching for.

“Respite” Means a Chance to Rest

“Taking respite means having a temporary period of rest,” the article begins. “For primary caregivers, this typically refers to securing short-term care for your loved one – even several weeks or months – so that you can recharge amid the very real burdens of caregiving.”

Respite care exists to give caregivers a chance to practice self-care, such as going to the gym or connecting with friends. In other words, respite care provides a brief chance to experience normal life, free from the overwhelming responsibilities of providing care.

“Do not forget to find ways to maintain your sense of self while you are in the midst of giving so much of your time and attention to someone else,” the article adds.

Caregivers Want to Know About Respite Care

Despite being an available resource for a real need, respite care is not as well known among caregivers as it should be. According to the article, “ In a 2022 survey of caregivers, Caregiving in America found that most were unaware that respite care was available. Many caregivers need more education about their options for respite care and how to build a network of support to share the load of providing financial and emotional support to an ailing loved one.”

The study reported the following findings:  

  • 59 percent of respondents reported that they were the primary emotional support system for a sick or impaired loved one.
  • 22 percent of respondents said they worked more than 40 hours per week as the primary caregiver to a disabled family member.
  • 48 percent of respondents disclosed they needed emotional support for themselves.
  • 44 percent of respondents shared that they wanted information about where to find respite care

A caregiver’s health is a vital and finite resource, so it’s very important to prioritize yourself when supporting an ailing or aging family member. Respite care can help.

Caregiver Fatigue, Burnout are Real Concerns

We’re all pretty familiar with the symptoms of burnout in our everyday lives, and a caregiver is at a heightened risk of destructive burnout when they lack community and help. The strain of unpaid, stressful, and near-constant work to care for a loved one can create real changes to your health, including loss of sleep and extreme fatigue, feeling hopeless, having a quick temper, and lack of interest in favorite activities.

“If you or someone you know has taken on the responsibilities of caregiving, be aware of the signs of burnout and actively seek support,” the article advises. “Respite care is among your potential options.”

Respite Care Means Letting Go for a Short Period

Respite care is all about giving caregivers a chance to relax and take a break from the intense responsibilities of providing full-time care. This is often called short-term replacement care.

Some of the care that respite workers provide includes bathing and dressing, bathroom help, cooking and cleaning, and helping your loved one eat, drink, take medication, and get into and out of bed. They also spend quality time with your loved one and can help with exercise and other personal care.

How Much Do Respite Care Services Cost?

The cost for this kind of service can vary, depending on long you use it. Respite care can be scheduled for several days, weeks, months, or longer.

The article is quick to note that while private insurance often does not cover respite care, “[if] your loved one is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, you may be able to secure five consecutive days of respite care.” However, there’s an important Medicare restriction. “Your loved one must be receiving hospice care benefits for Medicare to cover respite care,” the article explains.

Where to Find Respite Care Near You

Respite care is provided by several organizations. According to the article, “If your family member is covered by Medicaid, you can speak to a Medicaid planner in your state to determine what programs may be available. As mentioned above, Medicare covers respite care under its hospice benefit.”

If your loved one is not covered by Medicaid, there are still options provided by private organizations, including:

Many counties offer extensive referral and advocacy programs, such as this service in one Seattle-area county. In addition, you may want to connect with a qualified elder law attorney in your area to talk through your options. A professional can help you determine how to pay for respite care, how your loved one might qualify for Medicaid or VA benefits, and more. We encourage you to reach out to us at Life Point Law for personalized information.

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(originally reported at

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