Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Respite – getting a break

The term ―respite‖ means a pause or rest from a continuous responsibility or activity. The goal of respite services is to enable the caregiver to continue with their responsibilities caring for their loved one at home by preventing over- stress and burnout. Although respite is often viewed as a service, it is more than that; it is an outcome experienced by caregivers.

When family caregivers are asked what they need to support them in their caregiving responsibilities, getting a break once in awhile is at the top of the list. However, getting a break means different things to different people. The following is how some family caregivers who were interviewed for the Family Caregivers’ Network’s ―Supporting Family Caregivers project described their experience of respite:

Respite gives me time to go hiking and spend time with my friends. It also means I am not tied to getting home mid-day to prepare lunch for my father. I also now have time to volunteer.

My circle of friends through the church provided me with social companionship and invited me out to activities. The church also arranged for someone to visit my husband everyday when I went away for a couple of weeks to visit my daughter. It was very comforting to me to know that my husband had visitors while I was away.

Don’t wait until you are exhausted that arranging for a break will seem too overwhelming.

Dad’s respite is grocery shopping - it’s the only time he gets out of the house.

We had home support from 10 am to 2 pm once a week and I would leave as soon as the home support person arrived and stay out right until 2 pm. It gave me a break. I would go to the library and read the newspaper or go get groceries.

According to family caregivers, respite means freedom from worry. Having opportunities to spend time with friends, even for brief periods of time, to do errands, or be with family, are important considerations for family caregivers who also juggle other family responsibilities.

When you foresee the need for a break, think about what this means for you. Then consider the service options available. Don’t wait until you are so exhausted that arranging for a break will seem too overwhelming. Plan ahead. Please refer to Sections 7 and 9 in this Resource Guide to find out more about services that can provide you with a break.