What Is Respite? Do I Need It?

Respite care was established to provide care to the patient and the caregiver. It serves as a lifeline to the caregiver and provides a break from the emotionally and physically challenging role of providing end-of-life care to a loved one. It can also provide a much needed change in the day to day routine of the patient.

One day as I visited with a caregiver for a patient at end of life, she said to me, “I used to weigh 160 pounds and my blood pressure was 120. Now I weigh 120 pounds and my blood pressure is 160. She laughed, but in assessing her situation further, I discovered she was saying she was exhausted and her health was now failing because she had no time to take care of herself.

There are many reasons why respite care is not readily taken advantage of, as it becomes particularly challenging for the caregiver. There are feelings of guilt and abandonment associated with “taking a break.” There is also a sense of obligation and the need to “tough it out.” The caregiver may recognize the difficulty of caregiving, but not know where to turn for much needed help and a break.

Patients under the care of Hospice of the Red River Valley may use their Medicare benefit and, sometimes, private insurance for a respite stay every 30 days. The stay is typically five nights, but the patient and family can choose to use less nights if desired. This break may, in some cases, mean the difference between the patient remaining in his or her home or requiring long-term care placement. Respite allows the caregiver to make a trip out of town to visit friends or family. Or, arrange to go to an out of town wedding, baptism, have that minimally invasive surgery, or make that medical or dental visit they have been putting off.

The patient is cared for in a facility at one of various locations in our service area. The care offered is 24 hours per day and nursing staff is available at all times. The Hospice team will continue to visit the patient during the respite stay. The patient is free to participate in activities of his or her choosing while there, and may even be able to get a haircut or attend church. The patient then returns home after the respite stay.

What should a patient bring to a respite stay? (Always check with a nurse as each facility’s rules differ.)

  • All current medications
  • Adult incontinence products
  • Oxygen concentrator and tubing
  • Catheter supplies
  • Feeding tube supplies
  • Blood sugar monitor and test strips
  • Wound dressing supplies
  • Nebulizer medications and equipment
  • Personal clothing, robe, slippers
  • Tooth care items, razor and other personal hygiene products
  • Any other items that may make the respite stay more familiar and comfortable

The Hospice social worker will be able to answer questions and help facilitate admission for a respite stay. For more information on respite care or any other questions you may have please call our toll free number 800-237-4629.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.