At some point, you’ll need a break from caring for your loved one — time to rest, take a vacation, catch up on your own life, or do nothing at all. Respite care is the means to this much-needed time off.

Respite care is care provided to your loved one by someone other than you. It covers a broad range of care and services and may last a few hours or several days. Respite care providers include:

  • Family, friends, or neighbors
  • A companion or home health aide
  • Adult day care
  • Assisted living
  • A nursing home

A good place to start your research on respite care options is with your local Department of Social Services, senior center, or Area Agency on Aging. These government entities can give you a list of respite care providers in the area and also tell you if there’s grant or other money available to help you pay for respite care under the federal Lifespan Respite Care Program. If your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy, contact the company and ask if the policy covers respite care.

Before you bring anyone into your home to care for your loved one, be sure he or she can provide the level of care your loved one needs. If you decide to hire someone on your own rather than using an agency or company, use the vetting methods described in Chapter 9 of Become an Informed Caregiver: What You Should Know When Caring for an Aging Loved One. Be sure your substitute has up-to-date lists of your loved one’s medications, allergies, limits on activities of daily living, and other vital information.

Finally, give yourself permission to take a break. It may feel scary but it’s important to take care of yourself — to put yourself first rather than your loved one.

Do you have experience with respite care? If so, I’d love to hear about it.