Respite care and adult day care are important to the millions of Americans that provide unpaid in-home care for elderly relatives, friends, or neighbors. Respite caregivers and adult day care programs monitor and provide companionship to elders and seniors for a short period of time, so that their regular caregivers can take a break or deal with other responsibilities.
This article discusses the different types of respite and adult day care available, how to find and pay for these services, and how to choose a caregiver or program.
Respite care is designed to give both caregivers and seniors a break from the usual routine. It allows caregivers to have some free time, take care of other responsibilities, and obtain (often much-needed) mental breaks. It also allows seniors to talk and spend time with someone other than their usual caregiver.
Respite caregivers provide monitoring and companionship to seniors for short periods of time. In addition to watching over the elder, providers and programs might also prepare meals, provide personal care (for example, assisting with bathing, toileting, and exercising), and, in some instances, tend to the elder's medical needs -- by administering medication, for example.
Care can be provided on a scheduled basis, or just occasionally. Often, the people providing respite care are volunteers -- friends, other family members, members of the community, or church members. But you can also hire someone (either on your own or through an agency) to provide respite care. Respite care can take place in the home, in a church or community center, or in a nursing facility.
Adult day care centers are formal programs that take care of elders during the day. They provide companionship, social activities, meals, personal care services, exercise, various forms of recreation, and social services -- including referrals to other agencies and services. Although adult day care centers may be located in a church or community center as some respite care programs are, they differ from respite care in that the programs are more structured and provide more services.
If a day care center is affiliated with a hospital or nursing facility, it might also provide medical services -- administering medication or providing physical therapy, for example. However, most day care centers provide minimal or no medical services. Some day care centers allow drop-ins. Others require that participants pay for scheduled attendance.
The cost of respite and adult day care varies greatly, depending on the facility offering the services and the skill level of the caregivers. Often, in-home respite services are free or low-cost. At the other end of the spectrum, adult day care centers that provide medical care will cost quite a bit more. For help paying for respite care, consider the following:
Start the process by thinking about what types of services you want, the ideal schedule, whether you want regular or occasional care, whether the elder would benefit from group interaction or just one companion, and whether the caregiver will need to provide any medical services.
One of the best ways to find good respite care or adult day care is by word of mouth. Ask your friends, family members, and acquaintances if they have any recommendations or warnings about certain programs.
Here are some other ways to get information about programs and caregivers in your area:
A referral to respite or adult day care is not necessarily a guarantee of the program's quality. Once you obtain several referrals, do some homework to find out if the care is good and will meet the elder's needs (and yours).
If you are hiring an individual in-home caregiver, do the following:
If you are considering an out-of-home respite or adult day care program, here are some questions to ask the program director:
To understand all the alternatives to nursing facilities -- including a comprehensive discussion of how to get and pay for home care -- get Long-Term Care: How to Plan & Pay for It, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).