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Respite Care Information for Families

What is respite care?

Respite care or short-term relief is a time for families and primary caregivers to restore and strengthen their ability to continue providing care for a child or adult with special needs - i.e., mental or physical disabilities, chronic illness or medical fragility, or at risk of abuse or neglect. Research has shown that there are many benefits and cost savings for everyone involved in respite care, from a micro level of improving the family stability to the macro level of saving billions of dollars in the national healthcare cost.

(ARCH National Respite Network's factsheet on cost benefits of respite, updated October 2010) 

Importance of respite care

Everyone needs time to refresh and energize oneself: time to complete projects; time to do things that are fun and rewarding; time to simply relax; time to think about day-to-day plans, or to plan for dealing with major challenges. Without time for those activities, anyone can become overwhelmed and exhausted!

Respite care works best for families and primary caregivers  as a planned time off before extreme stress and crises occur. It can be different things for each family, depending on needs, resources and services available in the community.

Some examples are:

  • a few hours to go shopping, seeing a movie, or taking a nap;
  • a weekend for a family vacation;
  • scheduling a delayed medical appointments for oneself;
  • working on a volunteer activities outside the home;
  • couples having some time alone with each other;
  • parents spending valuable one-to-one time with siblings of a child with disabilities;
  • special caregiver events, for example the Gift of Time retreat for grandparents or other relative caregivers.