How Respite Care Can Help Relieve Hospice Caregivers

Caregiver supporting a hospice patient in respite care.

Written by Amedisys

Caregiving in hospice is primarily, and rightly, focused on the well-being of the patient. But what about caring for the caregivers who dedicate an enormous amount of time and energy to their loved ones’ quality of life?

Respite care is a temporary form of care that can relieve hospice caregivers by providing them time to recharge.

If your loved one is receiving hospice care and you currently seek assistance for your caregiver duties, read on to see how respite care might be the solution.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is a temporary, short-term service designed to provide primary caregivers relief from their caregiving responsibilities. It can be informal or formal, depending on your needs as a caregiver and the medical needs of your loved one.

[action 1]

Unofficial Forms of Respite Care

Your ideal respite services will depend on the type of care needed. In some situations, a less formal option may be appropriate. For example, if other family members share caregiving responsibilities, you might ask them to help for a while.

If other caregivers are unavailable, ask friends to help. If you choose this option, you’ll want to take the time to provide them with a level of training to make sure they know how to provide care. However, if this solution seems like it would only add more work to an already overwhelmed schedule, you should consider more official forms of respite care.

Hospice agencies like Amedisys also offer trained volunteers to spend time with patients, which can help alleviate pressure on caregivers.

Official Forms of Respite Care

Respite care is one of the four levels of hospice care and can be made available as part of the Medicare hospice benefit when caregivers need a break. With respite care, patients are admitted to a long-term care or other inpatient facility with 24-hour nursing available for up to five days/five nights and continue to have access to all hospice services.

The hospice team continues to coordinate the plan of care and helps arrange transport for the patient to and from the facility.

If you continue to need more assistance than what’s already provided by the hospice team and the Medicare benefit, you may need to explore an outside caregiving or personal care agency to provide in-home support or adult day programs.

If you involve an agency in your respite care plan, they will provide either in-home or out-of-home services.

The Benefits of Respite Care

Some caregivers feel a sense of guilt for needing time for themselves. If you feel this way, it’s important to note that respite care provides both short-term and long-term benefits to you and your loved one.

1. Prevent caregiver burnout

The most important benefit of respite care is the prevention of caregiver burnout. In addition to caregiving duties, you likely have a life full of responsibility. Respite care is appropriate if you need a break from caregiving, or if you need to have a medical procedure or take a trip

Respite care can help reduce stress and support long-term care commitment. Taking care of yourself now will pay off in the long run.

2. Take time to rest and recharge

Life can feel consumed by caregiving responsibilities. By taking time for yourself, you can focus on the activities that address your emotional health, such as hobbies, time spent with friends and family, exercise or relaxation.

3. Improve quality of care

Your care team wants what’s best for you and your loved one. During respite, you can still visit with your loved one and the care team will communicate with you to give updates, answer questions and provide support. The team will also work with you to plan for your loved one’s return home to make it as seamless as possible.

How to Choose Respite Care

Choosing the ideal type of respite care begins with assessing your needs as a caregiver. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I only need care between certain hours? If your answer is “yes,” you might consider an adult day program — a community-based level of care that provides structure during the day. Remember that patients need to be in a healthy enough standing that allows them to travel.
  • Do I only need care occasionally and sporadically? If your need for assistance is inconsistent, consider a more informal route, such as coordinating care times with other caregivers or friends.

Who Pays for Respite Care?

If respite care is part of a loved one’s hospice care plan, Medicare Part A covers costs. According to the Medicare website, eligibility for hospice care includes:

  • Certification of a terminal illness from a physician.
  • Hospice care in place of curative care.
  • A signed statement selecting hospice care rather than a Medicare-covered treatment.

Keep in mind that Medicare insurance only covers respite care that takes place in a Medicare or Medicaid-approved inpatient facility. Medicare will pay for respite care lasting up to five days/five nights at a time.

Is Hospice the Answer for Your Loved One?

Wherever you are in your journey of discovering whether it’s time to begin the conversation on hospice with your family, Amedisys is here to help with these tools:

If you’re ready to speak to a hospice specialist, please complete the form at the bottom of this page or visit our location directory to find a care center near you.

Is a loved one facing a terminal condition