Avoiding the Pitfalls of Respite Care

Informal family caregivers for elderly loved-ones are often under a great deal of stress stemming from a lack of time to take care of themselves.  And studies have shown caregivers frequently neglect their own health and can become socially isolated, leading to depression.  While respite care is often encouraged so caregivers can take a holiday or even just a break for a few days, new research from Australia has found sudden changes in living arrangements for seniors often results in an increased risk for falls or other serious health problems.

Researchers at Monash University published their study of temporary residents in nursing homes in the journal Age and Aging.  Nearly 80 per cent of older adults in Australia are cared for by unpaid family caregivers or close friends and when they need a break, more than 50,000 seniors each year are placed in respite care.  The study found that the incidence of preventable injury and deaths was significantly higher for short-term residents than seniors in permanent long-term residential care.

The study shines a light on the need for better communication about the needs of seniors entering respite care.  Older adults may become confused and disoriented by a change in routine and surroundings.  Patients and staff need more orientation time to better settle elderly adults safely into a new routine.  Caregivers frightened by the increased risk for injury or death may want to begin a new regular routine of respite care, starting slowly, allowing plenty of time to adjust, before taking a trip or longer absence.  A Geriatric Care Manager can help match patient needs with an appropriate facility or in-home caregiver.

Tips for Successful Respite Care

  • Meet with staff ahead of time to develop a care plan
  • Share a little of the patient’s background and enjoyed activities
  • Document the daily routine including waking, sleeping, bathing and eating times
  • Share triggers, likes or dislikes that may cause problems, such as sundowning
  • Provide an updated medication list with dosages, times and diagnosis
  • List emergency contacts, doctors and health insurance information

To read the more about the Australian study, follow this link to the British Geriatrics Society blog.