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What is Respite or Respite Care?

February 2019

Adventures in Eldercare

Respite is a term we often hear but not everyone knows what it means. If you are one of the many people new to caring for an elderly loved one and you are not sure what Respite care is then this short article is for you.

Respite is pronounced RES-pit, emphasis on the Res part. It is a term derived from the Latin word Respectus, meaning refuge, but almost always we use respite to describe time, not a place, of relief.

Respite is a period of time, a period of relief. When used in context with a caregiver, it is a time of relief for the caregiver. As so many of my readers know, caregiving can be a twenty-four hour a day job, seven days a week. The stress in doing ANY job, even a labour of love, with no break and no rest will eventually lead to burnout and unhappiness in the task.

There are over 3 million people in Ontario providing support and care to

a family member, friend or neighbour. This is almost 30% of the Ontario population acting as caregivers. A majority of these caregivers, 53% (1.8 million), are women while 47% (1.5 million) are men. This is a huge number of people, an incredible workforce that is working independently in homes across the province. Many of these caregivers have be thrust into this role with no training or support. The job of caregiving, especially, when caring for the elderly can often start off relatively stress free and taking a small amount of time, but, because of the very nature of aging and especially if illness is involved, caregiving becomes more and more involved, taking more and more time.

It is not uncommon to hear of a daughter moving in to care for an elderly mother, leaving her husband and family to fend for themselves. Possibly sleeping on a couch in her mother's apartment night after night with no relief. When these situations occur it is inevitable that stress will rise. In such a situation the health of the caregiver starts to deteriorate mentally and physically. Many other issues arise as well such as loss of income from missed work, not getting promotions at work and often marital strain and family dynamic issues.

Respite is an important safety valve to relieve caregiver stress. It could be a simple as setting up a schedule with other family members to help with the caregiving, but this is often not an option. There are government programs that assist with respite and private homecare companies like Victoria Eldercare offer respite for a few hours to few weeks.

If you are a caregiver, there are options! The key is to ASK FOR HELP, let others know that you are becoming stressed and then seek out respite care in any form that you can find it. Even a few hours can make a huge difference, with Respite Care both the caregiver and the care receiver will benefit. The caregiver has a chance to become refreshed and re-energized and the care receiver feels more secure knowing that their caregiver is healthy and able to help them. Respite care is win-win situation and essential to successful caregiving.

Dr. Bruce Veltri is the founder and CEO of Victoria Eldercare, a Norfolk County based home care agency. Call 519-429-2644 or visit our website at for more information.

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