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Respite providers: Key roles and responsibilities

The qualification, training requirement, and payment process for respite care providers depend on the type of funding families use. For programs serving children and adults, funded through the Department of Human Services (DHS), there are specific standards and requirements of providers. Families can work with you and their service or case manager to help coordinate necessary processes and ensure payment authorization for respite services. Some families may be able to pay out of their own pocket for your necessary respite care service.


It is important to keep in mind some common roles and responsibilities listed below for yourself, or for sharing with others who may be interested in this type of work.


1. Work as a team with the family 

Respect and work within the family's decision, as you are a valuable team member for the family.


2. Gather information 

The kind of information you need as a respite provider will depend on the particular needs of the care recipient and family. The family may use a notebook to share essential information for a meaningful experience for both of you and the individual you care for. Don't hesitate to ask questions.


3. Give the family information about yourself 

Families need basic information about the individuals providing respite care. Be prepared to respond to some questions families may have for you regarding your work and training experience in providing care for children or adults with special needs.


4. Know the person you are working with 

Families and the individuals being cared for are the experts on basic, specialized care needs (e.g., giving medications, feeding, lifting, communicating), and required level of supervision. It is a good first step for you to have this discussion first. Then check other training resources for additional professional development opportunities.


5. Respect each family's patterns, values and culture 

Respite care can be an opportunity for families and providers to have a positive and enriching experience of each other's routines and patterns, opinions, beliefs, and cultural values. It is important not to make judgments about individuals and the families you work with.


6. Communicate important information to the family 

You will regularly make important observations about the care receiver. It is very important to take notes and share the information with the family. Check with the family for things to note. Some examples are:

  • Indications of illnes or injury;
  • Patterns of any particular behavioral issues;
  • Significant changes from typical moods or behaviors;
  • Excessive sleeping, or difficulty sleeping.


7. Respect boundries, family rules and the home environment 

Respect rules, values, and standards that may be different from your own environment. Some basic guidelines that may be simple and common courtesies to keep in mind:

  • Show up on time. Remember that the primary caregiver's respite time may be used for important apointments, a special event, or for a chance to spend rare time alone with a friend or relative.
  • Respect the family's standards for order and cleanliness. As long as the family's home does not present a health risk, you do need to adapt to the household conditions.
  • Have a clear agreement with the family on expectation for housecleaning or other chores. If you are not receiving a task list, be sure to get clarification on what is part of the respite agreement.
  • Know the family's emergency phone numbers and procedures. Go over locations of fire extinguishers and first aid equipment, and emergency procedures. It may be organized in a notebook.
  • Respect the family's rules and expectations for usage of household items (appliances, entertainment system, phone, etc.). Make sure you have permission to use, and be aware of any specific rules for yourself and the care receiver. Make sure you know if you should be expecting any calls, and where to leave phone messages.
  • Discuss about food and drink. Be aware of any food restriction for the care receiver and yourself.
  • Be clear about any verbal or written rules (bedtimes, snacks, chores, having visitors, etc.). These rules must not be changed without the family's permission. It may be organized in a notebook.
  • Leave the home how you found it. The family should not have to clean up your messes.

8. Plan and negotiate respite time and location 

Before a respite care session, be sure you and the family agree on:

  • The exact day and time and location care will be provided;
  • Whether overnight care is required;
  • Any particular needs or expectations;

Be sure to give the family at least a 24-hour notice of cancellation.


9. Maintain confidentiality and respect the privacy of the care receiver and the family

Families need to be able to trust that any health and safety information or records they share with you will be kept in confidence. Some basic confidentiality rules:

  • Know the difference between need-to-know and want-to-know. Ask for information necessary to health, safety and appropriate care.
  • Never share any verbal or written information about a family or family member in public.
  • Check with the family on what kind of health and safety information that can be shared, if you are caring for the individual in your home.
  • Never write about, photograph or record any image of the family or the care receiver without any consent.

10. Know when to report abuse and neglect 

As a respite care provider, whether you are paid or a volunteer, you may be mandated under the Oregon state law to report suspected abuse or neglect of at-risk population -- children and adults with special needs.

In an emergency, call 911.