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How to Choose a Short-Term Senior Community Respite Provider

Deb Hipp
By Deb HippAugust 28, 2019

If you’re a full-time caregiver for a parent or senior loved one, taking a vacation can seem like an impossible dream. In fact, you may already have a list of reasons why that won’t work. So, how can you travel or take a break? That’s where a short-term respite stay at a senior community can help.

Learn more about how to choose a short-term senior community respite provider for a loved one during this time.

How Short-Term Respite Providers Benefit Caregivers

Many assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing communities offer short-term respite stays that allow family caregivers much-needed time to attend to their own health, take a break, or travel. Some people also use short-term stays to allow continued recuperation after a rehabilitation stay.

Respite stays are popular at Bethesda Hawthorne Place in St. Louis, Missouri, says Lea Ann Coates, residency counselor for Bethesda Health Group. Reasons for respite stays vary, ranging from the primary caregiver’s need to relax or travel to the need for a worn-out caregiver to take care of his or her own mental and physical health.

“Caregiver fatigue can get to a point where people need a constant break from caregiving responsibilities so they can get back to their role of spouse or son or daughter,” says Coates. Even when someone from an agency comes in to help, the caregiver still never gets completely away from their caregiving role, she says.

Even so, many caregivers are reluctant to take respite, says Amanda Lambert, co-author of “Aging With Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home.” “Many people feel like no one else can do as good a job as they can. In many cases, they’re reluctant to give up control,” says Lambert.

“If someone is looking for a true break from caregiving, a good way to do it is with a short-term respite in assisted living,” says Lambert. If someone needs a higher level of care, respite can also be arranged at many skilled nursing or memory care communities.

One big advantage of using short-term respite at a senior community is the assurance that unlike a family member or friend willing to step up for the weekend, the staff is trained to take care of your loved one. “People working there are used to assisting people,” says Coates. “That’s our day-to-day. That’s what we do.”

6 Ways to Choose a Short-Term Senior Community Respite Provider

Arranging for short-term respite care in a senior community isn’t difficult. However, it helps to know a few things before you begin your search for a community that works for you and your loved one.

Here are six things to consider when choosing short-term respite:

1. How far in advance do you need to set up the stay?

Keep in mind that you’re not the only one planning a break or vacation. People book short-term respite stays far in advance, says Coates. That means respite stays are harder to arrange during the holidays and summer vacation months, especially if you wait until the last minute.

2. Is there a minimum stay and for how long?

If you need only a few days respite, that could narrow down your choices, since assisted living and other types of senior communities may require a minimum stay. For example, Bethesda Hawthorne Place has a one-week minimum stay.

3. What is the admissions process?

Be prepared to spend several hours filling out the required paperwork, providing patient information and learning about the community.  Assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing communities must comply with state requirements even for a short-term stay.

4. What is the cost and what does it include?

Senior communities set their own respite rates, which may vary greatly. Find out how the rate is charged and what it includes. Bethesda Hawthorne Place charges a daily rate of $250 per day for assisted living and memory care respite, says Coates. That rate includes day-to-day care, meals and the same amenities enjoyed by full-time residents such as activities and outings. Respite rates are typically all-inclusive of services but be sure to ask if there are additional expenses.

5. What is the medications policy?

You may think stocking up your parent’s or spouse’s pill planner for the stay is a good idea, but that may not be allowed under the community’s medication policies. For example, Missouri regulations dictate that Bethesda Hawthorne Place must dispense medications individually from their original prescription containers, not sorted ahead of the stay by someone not on staff. If the stay exceeds seven days, the medication must be ordered from a specialty pharmacy that provides “bubble” packaging.

Pay attention during the admissions process to make sure you understand the medications policy.

6. What items will your loved one need to bring?

The person staying in an assisted living apartment will probably bring personal toiletries but what about bed linens, paper towels, and toilet paper? Are those included too? Find out. Ask for a copy of the move-in checklist for regular admissions as a guide to knowing what to bring.

Setting up a short-term respite stay doesn’t only benefit you. Your senior loved one will also benefit from having a rested caregiver.

“The stress of caregiving affects the caregiver’s mental and physical health, which also affects their ability to take care of their loved one,” says Lambert.

How did your family choose a short-term senior community respite provider for a parent or senior loved one? We’d like to hear your stories and tips in the comments below.

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Deb Hipp
Deb Hipp
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