Respite Care for Dementia Caregivers

"Respite" care is care temporarily provided to your loved one by someone other than you in order to give you a break from having constant responsibility as a caregiver. The majority of persons with Alzheimer’s disease live at home and receive care from family or friends — about 75%, by some estimates. This is true of those with other forms of dementia as well. These caregivers, some of whom may work part- or full-time, can benefit greatly through the use of supportive services such as respite care.

Read more about the two main types of respite care:

In-home Respite Care

In-home respite care, sometimes called in-home assistance or companionship, is a service where someone from outside the home comes to watch and care for your loved one in your absence in your home. Additionally, these companion aides are often available to help with minor household chores or meal preparation. Many caregivers use this form of respite care as a way to have a couple of hours to themselves in order to have time to run a few errands or to relax. Formally, in-home respite care is provided by professional aides available through government or community agencies. Informally, such care can also be provided by a friend or family member who agrees to spend time with your loved one.

Whether a professional or family friend, make sure that the person has a good understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. You should also let him or her know what to expect from your loved one in terms of their likes and dislikes and their strengths and weaknesses. Some caregivers find it helpful to prepare a few activities beforehand, such as looking through photos or listening to music. These activities can make your time away from the home go more smoothly for your loved one and for their companion.

Residential Respite Care

Whereas in-home services can provide respite care for a few hours a day, residential care is an option that provides professional care for a night, a weekend, or perhaps even a week. This kind of overnight respite care often takes place in dedicated units in hospitals or nursing homes, but there are also boarding houses in some areas that offer temporary services. Residential respite care can be an important service for families who are finding themselves stressed or burdened and need to take an extended break or vacation.

Remember that new places and routines can be distressing to persons with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. If you do choose to use overnight respite care, be sure that the facility appreciates your loved one’s needs and that your loved one has some familiar items with him or her during the stay. Keep in mind that Medicare does not typically cover this service. However, you may be able to find financial assistance through Medicaid or other state and federal financial programs such as the Older Americans Act (OAA). Finally, begin thinking about respite care before your family and you the caregiver become completely exhausted or frustrated.

View References

Family Caregiver Alliance. 2009 National Policy Statement. Available at: Retrieved March 30, 2009.


Personal Facts and Insights

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This printable form helps you inform the respite caregiver of important facts about your loved one, including information about your loved one's family and friends, level of cognition, communication styles, personality and temperament, daily routine, religion and spirituality, sleeping habits, daily needs such as grooming, toileting, eating, words understood, and the order in which tasks are typically completed.

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Fact Sheets: Respite Care

Source: Eldercare Locator: Connecting You to Community Services
Description: This web page, produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, describes different types of respite care, discusses how to pay for respite care, and provides information on the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

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Alzheimer's Disease Continuing Care

Source: Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation
Description: This web page discusses the different types of continuing care available, with different sections on Care Managers, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Home-Care Services, Adult Day Care, Respite Services, Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, and Hospice Care. Links to a Resource Locator and Benefits Checkup are included to find the types of care listed in your area.

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Respite Care Guide: Finding What's Best For You

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This guide describes respite care,why it can be useful to caregivers, and how to prepare for it. It discusses five different types of respite care. Several checklists help you evaluate whether or not a caregiver or facility is suitable to your loved one's needs.

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