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What Is Respite Care?

Posted on June 15, 2023 by Elizabeth Swanson
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Caring for a family member in hospice can be a gift, allowing you to spend invaluable time with them. But being a caregiver 24/7 can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. If you don’t take time for yourself, it can not only impact your quality of life but make it more difficult to care for your loved one.  

“A common misconception is that all patients who are in hospice have 24/7 medical care,” says Melissa Doser, a nurse practitioner at Henry Ford Jackson Hospice. “But unless they’re inpatient, that’s not the case. A loved one is usually the primary caregiver. A hospice nurse might make home visits two or three times a week, but a nurse doesn’t move into their home. Family members who don’t have medical backgrounds become nurses. It can be a difficult transition.” 

This is where respite care comes in. It’s a Medicare-covered service where patients can stay at a hospice home for up to five nights. They’ll be cared for around the clock and their caregiver can have some much-needed time off. 

Hospice Care At Henry Ford

We offer a variety of levels of hospice care, from routine care to general inpatient care and respite care.
Learn more

“Respite care allows the caregiver to take a break—and to go back to being a friend or family member, instead of a nurse,” says Doser. “Family caregivers have a tendency to put off self-care and even delay their own medical appointments and surgical procedures. Sometimes they just need a short vacation to regroup, attend an event, visit with friends or sit down and read a book.”             

What To Expect During Respite Care

While in hospice and respite care, maintaining a daily routine is important—not only for the hospice patient, but the caregiver as well. 

“Even though someone is coming to an unfamiliar place, we try to keep everything the same—their foods, likes and dislikes, times they take their medication, temperature of the room," says Doser. "We have the entire staff—from dietitians to housekeeping and nursing—work together to maintain that consistency. Their in-home nurse might also stop by so they can see a familiar face.” 

While Doser encourages caregivers to go home and get some rest during respite care, some choose to stay with their loved one, and that’s okay, too. “It still allows them to be a spouse, daughter, son, instead of a caregiver,” she says. “They can resume that familial relationship as opposed to the patient-caregiver relationship, which can do a lot for the health of the patient and the caregiver.” 

When To Consider Respite Care

It is essential that those taking care of someone near the end of life also take care of themselves. Get plenty of rest and make time for yourself away from the demands of caregiving.

“If you’re a caregiver and experiencing symptoms like exhaustion, frustration, irritability or frequent bouts of crying, it may be time to consider respite care,” says Doser. “At Henry Ford Health, the hospice team is here to help and assist the hospice patient and caregiver on the respite admission process.”  


To learn more about respite care at Henry Ford Health, call 517-205-7600 or visit henryford.com/services/at-home/hospice.   

Reviewed by Melissa Doser, a nurse practitioner at Henry Ford Jackson Hospice. 

Categories : FeelWell
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