Today, the concept of “respite care” has gained national attention. This subject holds particular importance for people caring for incapacitated or ailing loved ones at home. In fact, some short-term senior care services provided by skilled nursing facilities and hospitals qualify as respite care services. What does this term mean? Why should it matter to caregivers? This brief article explores these topics.
The Concept of Respite Care
The National Institute on Aging website describes respite care. It defines this service as a way to furnish “short-term relief” for someone who assumes the burden of acting as a primary caregiver. Taking responsibility for an incapacitated spouse, an ailing parent, a special needs child, or any other dependent individual sometimes proves exhausting. Essentially, respite care offers a “respite” from this role by furnishing acceptable alternate care for a dependent on a temporary basis.
This concept recognizes the fact attending to the needs of another person nonstop eventually drains a caregiver physically, emotionally, and mentally. Taking even brief periods of time away from care responsibilities helps prevent burnout. It allows caregivers to return refreshed and energized once more.
Finding Qualified Respite Care Providers
In the past, medical services in the United States largely lacked formal mechanisms for furnishing respite care services. Sometimes relatives or neighbors would step in to provide short-term assistance. Fortunately, today more resources exist to address this problem. Caregivers for a terminally ill (i.e. hospice) patient may obtain up to five days of respite care for the patient from qualified providers under many circumstances through Medicare. Medicaid also makes respite services available in some situations.
Additionally, primary caregivers can seek assistance through two private organizations: the ARCH National Respite Locator Service and (in the case of a spouse or a life partner) the Well Spouse Association. These organizations help identify respite care resources within the community. (If primary caregivers cannot find any local respite care resource, they should contact their state social services agency for guidance.)
This summer, Congress considers legislation to provide five more years of financial support for respite care furnished under the Lifespan Respite Care Program. The program helps supply respite care services for family caregivers of special needs patients of all ages (including seniors). The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will consider the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 (S. 995).