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Understanding the Value of Respite Care

The summer travel season is quickly approaching. We are all excited about packing up the car for a long vacation at the beach or maybe a weekend camping trip at the state park. But, if you are the caregiver of an aging loved one, time away may seem like an impossible luxury or may add more stress to your already hectic life. So how do you balance caring for a loved one and making the most out of your summer?

Packing Everyone’s Bags

Respite care is defined as “temporary relief.” Anyone who has been a caregiver understands the value of a little break from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving. But, in some instances, taking a loved one along with you is doable with a little pre-planning. It can be less stressful to the caregiver, less expensive and a great way to include aging loved ones in family traditions. If other people are around to pitch-in and help, the primary caregiver can recharge too. Today, most hotels are handicapped accessible and even summer houses have elevators and zero-entry bathrooms. Durable medical equipment and even beach wheelchairs can sometimes be rented to save travel space. For some families, professional paid caregivers travel along on the trip or are even hired by the day or week at the destination.


Depending on the level of care your loved one needs, gadgets and technology can be a huge help. My sister-in-law lives with and cares for her mother who has had several strokes and is recovering from major surgery. Generally, she is self-sufficient, but after her last hospital stay, her care needs have increased. My sister-in-law worries about her when she is at work and it’s tough for them to make the 4 hour trip home for weekend visits. Recently, she purchased a security camera set from Amazon and signed her up for a life alert necklace with fall detection. My sister-in-law is now able to use a cell phone app to watch her mom in her favorite spots of the house and talk to her through the cameras to check – in. Her necklace just adds another level of safety to monitor any falls and they have designated friends close by in case of an emergency. These safety steps have given my sister-in-law enough peace of mind that she can make the trip home for a weekend and decompress knowing her mom is okay. Her mom likes the independence too of knowing she can stay home by herself and that help is near if she needs it.

Traditional Respite

Maybe your loved one needs more intensive care or maybe the trip is just not senior-friendly (can you say hiking the Andes?). If this is the situation, I cannot stress enough the importance of caregivers getting some respite. Caregiver burnout is real and statistics show people who provide intense care to loved ones have detrimental health effects. So how do you slip away, avoid the guilt and recharge even if it is for a “stay”vacation?

Decide if it will be best for your loved one stay in their home environment or if a change of scenery and a chance for socialization in a community would be a better fit. Most personal care homes and even skilled nursing homes will have several rooms set-aside for respite stays. As soon as you know you will need a respite stay, call your local facilities and home care agencies for pricing and to learn about the intake process.

For home care companies, respite can be a few hours a few times a week or up to 24-hours until family can return. It offers great flexibility and the ability to keep a loved one in their own surroundings, which is important especially for those with dementia. Sometimes, a respite stay in a facility can be a subtle way to introduce a reluctant senior to the benefits a personal care or nursing home can provide. The length and frequency of the respite stays can increase as the care needs of your loved one also increase. And, if your loved one continues to go to the same place, they can begin to build friendships and get acquainted to the staff and surroundings.

Paying for Respite

Traditional respite care is almost always an out-of-pocket expense, unless your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy that will help cover the cost. If someone is on hospice or a member of a church with volunteers, it can sometimes be offered at no cost. Although “adding” respite care to your vacation budget may feel like a strain, the investment is well worth it. A refreshed and focused caregiver can take the best care of their loved ones and themselves.

If you need additional help understanding the resources available, please feel free to reach out to the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resource Center for a listing of services available in your community. Please call our toll-free Call Center at 1-800-753-8827 or email me at

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