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There are 34.2 million unpaid caregivers in the United States caring for a loved one/family member 50 and older, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. Of this number, an estimated 15.7 million are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

There are times when a person caring for a sick or aging loved one needs assistance a few hours a day or a week so they can address their own personal needs. There are circumstances when short-term overnight care in skilled nursing or an assisted living community is needed if traveling, taking a vacation, or simply needing a break to recover from the stresses of daily care.

Respite care, by definition, is a term used to describe temporary care of a sick, elderly or disabled person providing relief for their usual caregiver. It is important that caregivers have resources for safe, dependable and caring alternatives.

For those responsible for the daily needs of a family member or loved one, it can be exhausting, and respite services may be part of a weekly care plan. Options may include either having a paid caregiver come to the home or using an adult day program in the community for support.

Non-medical home care agencies can help with in-home assistance. A home care service can provide a caregiver to offer companionship or assist with bathing, showering, dressing, personal care and more. Most agencies have a minimum of four hours per visit and bill at an hourly rate.

There are also state-run programs that offer financial assistance, yet planning is required, and takes time to be authorized for reimbursement. 

Additionally, if the person being cared for has a long-term insurance policy covering home care, it may provide funding. With all programs, eligibility requirements are subject to change. It is also advisable to check with one’s insurance provider for options.

A caregiver, however, may be looking at opportunities to have their loved one socialize with their peers in an adult day care setting. Most adult day programs are flexible on days of service and can also provide transportation.

Adult day services provide meals/snacks, recreational activities, and the opportunity for interaction in a safe and compassionate setting. There may also be nursing services on site and many offer personal care assistance. Adult day is also a privately paid service unless the client qualifies under a state-run program.

There are also times when caregivers may be looking for overnight care for a few days, a week or longer. Respite care is offered at both assisted living communities and skilled nursing centers. In assisted living facilities, stays may be available for a minimum of two weeks, but many require at least a month.

At skilled nursing centers, respite care can range from a few days to a couple of weeks. A short-term stay is also an ideal opportunity for a loved one to have a trial run to see if long-term placement would be a good fit. In that setting, individuals can enjoy recreational activities, and get to know staff in a nurturing and safe environment.

Respite stays at skilled nursing facility require paperwork to be completed from the patient’s primary care doctor before admission to show they meet the requirement for the level of care provided. In a nursing center, 24/7 care and medication management are included in the daily rate. With assisted living, the daily rate may vary based on services the client needs.

Every National Health Care affiliated center offers a respite program as a solution for short-term options for caregivers.  To learn more about the respite program at any one of our 33 locations, call our 24/7 CARE Line at 877-CARE-247. 

Column was originally written by Laura Falt, director of business development in Connecticut. Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to the community on services for older adults and is often featured in local publications.