The importance of respite care for caregivers

Being a caregiver for a friend or family member can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be an all-consuming responsibility. At times caregivers can feel stressed or drained of energy. Respite care gives caregivers a much-needed break in order to recharge and restore balance to their lives.

What is respite care?

Respite care is a temporary break to relieve family caregivers of their usual caregiving duties and responsibilities.

While receiving respite care many caregivers run errands; attend to things in their lives outside of caregiving, such as work commitments or looking after their own children; or, they take the time to do something they enjoy such as read, shop, exercise, or catch up with friends.

Caregivers can benefit from receiving anywhere from a few hours per week to an extended period of respite care.

Here are some options for how caregivers can receive respite care:

  • Having a professional in-home care provider to help with care needs such as dressing, bathing, meals, toileting, physical exercise, medication, or other medical care. This may be provided through regional home care programs, or through home care providers
  • For longer respite care needs a temporary accommodation at a retirement home or long term care facility is a safe place for the individual in need of care.
  • Spending time at an adult day program can provide both structure and social interaction for the person in need of care and a respite care break for the caregiver.
  • A trusted family member, friend, or neighbour can act as a companion, or take on tasks around the home such as cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, or shopping.
  • For shorter breaks, a caregiver could set up a “respite zone” to retreat to within their own home in order to take some time to themselves while a trusted individual tends to caregiving duties.
  •,, or Telehealth are also good resources for information and programs that may be available.
  • Contacting disease specific organizations in your local area may also provide assistance and guidance.

It is also important to recognize in advance when you might require respite.  One example is when a change in living arrangements occurs, such as when the person you are caring for transitions from hospital to a home setting. It is a good idea to plan in advance for respite, to help with the transition for both you and the person you are caring for.

Why do caregivers need respite care?

Respite care is crucial for the overall well-being of caregivers because without it they are susceptible to experiencing feelings of extreme stress, including anger or resentment towards the person in their care or other family and friends in their lives.

After receiving respite care, caregivers often feel more relaxed, refreshed, and rested. By feeling less stressed, the caregiver is able to approach their caregiving tasks with increased patience and a more positive attitude, in turn improving their relationships.

Making respite care easy

Of course, with all the benefits of receiving respite care, there are some challenges. It can be difficult emotionally for caregivers to leave the person they are responsible for in the care of someone else. Caregivers may experience feelings of guilt, worry, or a loss of control that could prohibit them from seeking the respite care they need.

To ease at least some of the concerns mentioned above, the best thing a caregiver can do is to prepare the person receiving care, and the respite care provider by:

  • Keeping the person in your care fully informed about anyone who will be providing their care
  • Providing an organized and detailed schedule including up-to-date emergency contact information
  • Maintaining current instructions on diet, personal care, likes and dislikes, and specifics on what to do in case of emergency

Respite care helps family caregivers restore balance in their lives. It allows caregivers to take the time to recover from the stresses of caregiving and gives them the flexibility to take care of other important aspects of their lives. Respite care is a necessary tool to support a caregiver’s success.

For more information about respite care, home care services, and how to prevent caregiver burnout, visit