Caring for Caregivers

Respite Care Tips

For Caregivers: Don’t Burn Out, Find a Respite 

 By Kerrie Reidelbach
Nathan was born with significant disabilities. But despite the obstacles he has faced in his 34 years of life, he has always been able to live at home surrounded by his Montana family. However, Nathan’s mom says this wouldn’t be possible without the respite care their family has received.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Lifespan Respite Program provides relief to the primary caregiver of people like Nathan. There are 134,000 Montanans who provide care in the home for family members with disabilities and Montana’s respite care program gives relief to these hard workers.
Caregivers provide a variety of services including everyday tasks such as cooking, feeding, bathing, transferring from a chair to a bed, and transportation to doctor appointments. They help with administration of complex medications and other health care needs. Many family caregivers find their role as a caregiver provides spiritual, emotional and even physical benefits.

To help provide family caregivers with the support they need, an effort is underway to connect Montana families with respite services. The coalition has created a website to assist in finding available local and statewide resources throughout Montana. Funds are available on a sliding fee scale to make respite care affordable for all Montanans who need this service. More information is at and

— Kerrie Reidelbach is Lifespan Respite Program manager for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

By Lauren Snedeker, LMSW

So many of us, whether we realize it or not, are caregivers. Approximately 40 million Americans provide unpaid care to adults with disabilities—the majority of whom also juggle a job, and other responsibilities, such as children or pets.

Trying to wear all these hats as a caregiver not only impacts the quality of care you are able to provide, but also your physical and emotional health—especially if the person in your care is living with dementia or another chronic illness. Thus, it is vital that caregivers find the support, and carve out the time, they need to take care of themselves.

Find a respite

One way caregivers can help preserve their own health and avoid burnout is by seeking respite care. Respite can provide an added layer of support to individuals in a caregiving role by giving them a much-needed time out from their caregiving duties. For example, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness could attend an adult day program and benefit from the social stimulation, which can help improve quality of life.

During this time, the caregiver may participate in a support group, run errands, visit with friends, tend to their own health needs or, simply, just take the time to relax. 5 respite care options to consider Home and Community-Based Respite—These programs provide in home support which allows temporary relief to unpaid caregivers. This type of respite may be available through your local Area Agencies on Aging.

Many states and local communities also provide respite through a variety of volunteer programs, state-funded programs, and Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services programs.

Some states have Lifespan Respite Programs that coordinate systems of respite across different populations. Many families also pay out-of-pocket to hire direct care workers on their own to provide respite. The Eldercare Locator can help you find resources in your community.

Adult Day Programs

These programs are for adults in a community-based group setting. Adult day centers typically offer health-based services as well as social activities.

Facility Based Respite

These programs provide a short stay for your person in a nursing home or another facility. Family—Identify family members who can care for your loved one and create a rotating care schedule.

Friends— See if the individual’s friends can lend a hand in providing supervision. Ask your own friends if they will help to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

November is National Family Caregivers Month

This month, I challenge all caregivers to commit to giving back to themselves, and make a plan to incorporate one of the respite options above into their routine. To find local respite care options near you, start by visiting And if you know someone who is a caregiver, I encourage you to reach out and share this information with them. Remember that respite is a necessity, and is key to improving and prolonging yours and your loved one’s quality of life.

lauren snedeker

About Lauren Snedeker, LMSW

Lauren Snedeker, LMSW, is a licensed social worker at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing optimal care and services to individuals living with dementia and to their families and caregivers. For more information, call AFA’s national toll-free helpline at 866-232-8484 or visit

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