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What are Respite Services?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2020
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Respite services are a method for providing breaks to those who take care of a loved one with continual care needs. This could mean someone with a pronounced developmental disability or someone with a deteriorating mental condition like dementia. These services may give primary caretakers relief from constant care by providing a few hours or days of care for their loved ones, young or old. Cost, how and where this care is offered is variable.

In a number of countries, states or regions have government-run respite services. These may be accessed through local health agencies or family service centers. In contrast, some agencies are privately run and might be connected to organizations that support families with loved ones with developmental disabilities or chronic physical or deteriorating conditions.

The way care is offered may depend on the agency. Sometimes a person skilled in caring for children or adults with specific types of health or developmental issues will provide care in the family home. Alternately, the child or adult might go to a private home where they receive care. Lastly, some respite services take place at large centers or hospitals, or for kids, there are even places like summer camp.

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Time period of respite services is another variable factor, and when provided by the state may be limited to a certain amount of days per year. People might get a few days of this service or they might only need an hour or two. Some caretakers need a longer break, and might opt for a week or more. Exact limits on yearly use could exceed a month, offering longer breaks if they are needed.

Accessing respite services may be associated with different costs. For a couple of hours of care in a home, fees might not be that much higher than paying a babysitter. Private homes and institutional care could be more expensive.

The cost for each family isn’t simply based on care location. Some state agencies can get assistance to pay for some or all of this cost for family members, and other care centers or private care have sliding scale fee rates, to help those caretakers who otherwise couldn't afford this assistance. If people think they aren’t able to afford respite care, they should contact regional social workers or state agencies and ask for a list of sources or programs that might help defray expenses.

A number of caretakers are concerned about using respite services because they worry about quality of care their loved ones will receive. In these instances, it may be possible to get a trusted friend or family member to provide care instead, and yet, people should not be discouraged from using respite care. For caretakers, taking periodic breaks is vital, so that they can continue to provide best care to their loved ones. It may be a bigger concern when a primary caretaker is not accessing this form of help. Studies show quality of caretaking tends to decline when the caretaker doesn’t have time off occasionally.

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