Helping hand. The hand of a young woman carefully supports the wrinkled hand of an old woman

Respite and Hospice Care Choices

With many end-of-life decisions facing seniors, planning for care services ahead of time can provide peace of mind and well-being for the patient and their loved ones. In preparation for this next stage of life, it's necessary to discuss the patient’s wishes long before age-related illnesses take hold.


One option for short-term health assistance is respite care. This family home service provides temporary relief, or respite, to the regular caregivers. As family members often take the caregiver role, a period of respite care can be a much-needed break. After all, no one can give much to others when their own well has run dry.

Essentially, respite services cover anything that the primary caregiver would provide. These tasks may include administration of medications, routine hygiene, assisting with getting dressed, conducting therapeutic treatments, planning and preparing meals, shopping, and other aspects of housekeeping. Respite care is meant to serve as a complete replacement for the standard caregiver.

In this spirit, respite care is customized to fit the needs of each individual patient. Some respite caregivers may even be trained in other treatments, such as physical therapy or management of medications. Additionally, respite services provide one-on-one attention and mental stimulation for the individual. A short-term caregiver can provide social companionship via conversation, going on outings together, playing games, and much more.

Adult Day Care centers are another way to secure respite care. These facilities offer a safe environment where the patient can interact with others in similar situations. A social bonus, these centers host activities, such as music and art, and often provide transportation and meals.

Respite must be planned in advance, much like a break or vacation from a job would be. It is a short-term service that can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. For assistance in taking care of loved ones during their final days, hospice care becomes the next step.


In contrast to respite care, hospice is an extensive plan that assists patients facing a life-limiting illness or injury. These individuals have received treatment and reached a terminal stage in their diagnosis. The timing for hospice is typically when physicians estimate six months or less left to live, or a lack of available treatments. At this point of declining health, the aim of hospice is to keep the patient comfortable and retaining quality of life during the time that remains. This focus on caring, not curing, is at the heart of the services that hospice care can provide.

Hospice staff work around the clock to assess the patient and arrange services as the need arises. The patient’s primary caregiver coordinates with the hospice team on a care plan that focuses on pain management and symptom control. This hospice team usually consists of the individual’s physician, a hospice physician or medical director, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy or other counselors, trained volunteers, and physical therapists. When the time comes, the hospice team can also provide bereavement care to support the patient’s surviving family and friends.

While hospice care provides endless support, the primary caregiver remains responsible for day-to-day care. When that caregiver must take time to care for themselves or other loved ones, temporary respite care can be arranged to coordinate with the support that hospice care provides.


Whether respite care, hospice care, or an eventual combination of both, these support services can take place either at home or in a professional facility. This decision is based on the patient's desires tempered with advice from the physician. A care plan can be adjusted at any time, and there is no commitment to remain in hospice if situations change.

A quick search for respite care or hospice care local to the patient is the first step to discovering an ideal care plan. Once a family can rest assured that their loved one is fully cared for, they can more thoroughly enjoy what really matters - quality time with each other.

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