No one can expend their energy, strength and time caring for someone else without needing to replenish their own reserves.

Self care

Respite: the chance to take a breather, the opportunity to reenergize. It is as important as any other item on the caregiver’s to-do list. People think of respite as a luxury, but it’s not. It’s a necessity. Considering caregivers’ increased risk for health issues from chronic stress, those risks are a lot costlier than some time away to recharge.

"Respite care may be in home or elsewhere, planned or emergency, for a few hours or even for a couple of weeks."

Caregiving is often a round-the-clock, 24/7 responsibility. Respite isn’t simply “getting a few hours off.” The purpose of respite is to allow the caregiver to rest, reenergize and remember that there is life beyond caregiving.

Respite is the key to your own well-being. It protects your health, strengthens family relationships and prevents burnout. Studies show that if the family caregiver gets respite, people being cared for can stay at home up to three-times longer. No wonder respite is one of the most frequently requested support services for family caregivers.

Where to look

Respite services can be hard to find but there are programs available to help you, such as at your local senior center. Respite care may be in home or elsewhere, planned or emergency, for a few hours or even for a couple of weeks.

But even though the need for respite is clear, particularly in a long-term caregiving situation, sometimes caregivers either reject the idea of respite outright or specify so many requirements that it never happens.

Letting go

It can be tough for a family caregiver to turn over responsibility for their loved one to someone else, even temporarily. Caregivers might feel guilty about taking a respite—that they are somehow shirking their commitment as a parent, a spouse or as a son or daughter. They might be afraid that the temporary care provider won’t do a good job, or won’t care for the person as lovingly as they would themselves.

While those feelings are natural, caregivers should not let them get in the way of taking a break for themselves. If you are a family caregiver, you need respite in order to find the strength to continue. It's important for your physical and emotional health. It is important for your soul.