Respite: What to Expect

Nowadays—thanks to home and respite care—more and more seniors are able to stay in their own homes longer. The services offered through home care agencies, independent care providers, adult daycare centers and residential care programs are allowing individuals to “grow old” on their own terms. These programs also provide caregivers with some much-needed respite from their duties and responsibilities, which, in turn, makes them better caregivers.

Non-Medical Home Care

respiteNon-medical home and respite care is quickly becoming a popular substitute for nursing homes. In some cases families combine this type of care with the services of other home health care and assisted living facilities. Non-medical services may be provided in the comfort of the senior’s home, at a memory care clinic or at some adult daycare centers.

Types of non-medical home and respite care services include:

  • Physical therapy—Therapists or staff work with seniors whose movements have been impaired by aging, illness or both. Physical therapy often is recommended for those afflicted with diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis or other motor-degenerative conditions. Exercises are designed to improve the individual’s balance, strength, range of motion and endurance and may include speech and massage therapy. Physical therapists also can instruct seniors, their caregivers and family members in the proper and safe way to walk and transfer someone from one location to another (e.g., from a bed to a wheelchair).

  • Occupational therapy works on improving a senior’s ability to perform routine daily activities, such as dressing themselves and basic acts of personal hygiene, including brushing their teeth and hair and shaving. Home care providers focus on enhancing the individual’s motor skills and cognitive abilities. Seniors are stimulated mentally, physically, emotionally and socially in the hopes of fostering a renewed sense of independence and productivity. Adult daycare centers provide this stimulation to those who still maintain a moderate level of functionality. It is done through arts and crafts, sing-a-longs, field trips or other types of “interactive” activities.

  • Companionship care is provided by other family members, friends, volunteers or paid employees, such as those supplied by a local home health care agency. Services may include taking the senior to medical or hair appointments, doing the grocery shopping, picking up medications, performing simple housekeeping, planning and preparing meals or overseeing the bill paying. Oftentimes companionship care is used as a form of respite for the caregiver, particularly if the individual cannot be left unattended.

Skilled Medical Home Care

Skilled medical home care also is available for families who require a higher level of assistance. In these cases health care professionals, such as doctors, RNs (registered nurses), LPNs (licensed practical nurses) or dieticians, monitor a senior’s vital signs, perform wound or skin care, take blood (if necessary) and may even perform in-home dialysis. Families interested or needing this type of home care must first consult with the senior’s physician, who will arrange for—and monitor—the service. Physicians themselves are known to make “house calls” to tend to their patients’ medical needs.

Written by Home Care Expert Mary S. Yamin-Garone