Labor Day, which is taking place on Monday, September 2nd this year, honors American workers, and if you are the primary caregiver for a senior loved one, you know a lot about work and responsibility. Everyone needs some time away from mental and physical effort, however, even if it is a labor of love.

Fortunately, respite care, a service provided either in a senior living community or in a senior’s home, employs professionals who temporarily relieve caregivers of their duties and allow them to relax or tend to other responsibilities.

How does temporary senior care work?

Respite Care in a Senior Living Community

Cathy Barton, Provider Relations Manager at Bethesda Health Group, explains that respite care at the skilled nursing home communities of Bethesda Dilworth, Bethesda Meadow, and Bethesda Southgate, provides a wide array of services in a secure environment.

Seniors have a choice of private or semi-private accommodations, as well as many amenities and activities including in-house games, movies, and music. Dining facilities, assistance with personal care, access to therapists, and 24-hour nursing supervision also are included. The respite care seniors join the current community residents on outings to local attractions, shops, restaurants, and events. They can receive transportation for doctor’s appointments or errands, if needed. “We have a lot of options and resources we can provide,” says Cathy.

Each respite care resident is assessed for their physical and medical requirements, and a thorough history of their life and personal preferences is created to make their stay as pleasant as possible. Some respite care residents come directly from a hospital stay to spend some time recuperating in this professionally supervised environment.

Cathy says that to ease anxiety, it is important to explain the purpose of the respite service to the senior and emphasize that it is a temporary arrangement. She suggests that taking the senior to the community for lunch, to meet some of the residents and staff, may help the adjustment before a first-time respite stay.

In addition, bringing some items from home for the stay—a favorite quilt, chair, some photographs—helps the place feel more like home. “We really want them to feel that as long as they are with us, this is their home,” says Cathy.

A one-time respite care visit can be scheduled, or you can schedule regular visits on an ongoing basis. Try to schedule the respite service two weeks in advance, though Cathy notes that, depending on circumstances and room availability, shorter notice may be accommodated.

Temporary Senior Care at Home

Many seniors are reluctant to leave their homes. Fortunately, respite care can also come to them. According to Michelle Glass, Bethesda Corporate Vice President, Senior Living and In-Home Services, Bethesda’s respite care is offered through its Senior Support Solutions program.

Many people use in-home respite care when an adult child or senior spouse has been caring for a parent, or if the senior is just home from the hospital and the family wants them to have some extra supervision for a while,” she says.

Bethesda’s Care Management Team coordinates the service, providing transportation, personal care tasks, assistance with daily activities, and medical supervision. A care manager provides an assessment that includes available financial assistance, home safety evaluation, medical needs, and resources that the senior can access.

According to Michelle, if care is required 24-hours-per-day for an extended period of time, the care provided in a community is less expensive.

A minimum advanced notice of 72 hours is best for in-home care, depending on the length of the respite service and the assistance needed. Continuing respite visits can be scheduled for the future.

It’s Okay, You Deserve a Break

Introducing respite care into a senior’s home or bringing them to a senior community for a respite stay may stir up fear and anxiety. Both Cathy and Michelle note that the historic stigma of a nursing home remains, even though nursing homes today are far superior in amenities, physical and social environment, and the quality of care provided. “The senior may be thinking if I’m taken to a nursing home, I’m going to be left there for good,” says Michelle.

Likewise, the adult child may feel guilty about taking a break even though they badly need one. “With our respite care services, what we do is give the family caregiver the permission to say ‘it’s okay for me to do something for me,’” Michelle says.

Interested in scheduling Respite Care for your senior loved one? Contact us online by e-mail at or by calling our Care Management team at (314) 800-1911.