Senior Care Focus

Respite Care Offers a Break to Family Caregivers

“Everyone needs a break every once in a while, even family caregivers,” says John E. Kasarda, Administrator of Little Brook Nursing Home in Califon, NJ. Some seniors are cared for in their, their family’s or their caregiver’s home. This care is a full-time devotion. But, sometimes caregivers either need a rest to regain their strength and collect themselves or must attend to a personal or business matter away from home. In these kinds of situations some nursing homes offer short-stay or respite care services (usually from 7 to 90 days) which insure safe oversight and high-skilled nursing care for your loved one while you are away. Also, some nursing homes may offer respite stays when one has had surgery and needs high-skilled care around-the-clock to help them recover, get back on their feet and return home.

One only has three respite coverage options: First, have a family member cover while you are away; second, hire a home care agency; or third, consider a respite stay for your loved one in a local nursing home. While some home care agencies may offer home care services, they usually require a minimum number of hours which can be extended to 24-hour care if needed. But, 24/7 home agency care agency rates may (a) exceed $360/day or $15/hr (which is much more than skilled nursing home rates) and (b) may not even provide the certified, skilled nursing care that only a nursing home can offer on a short-term respite basis. “Respite care professionals in skilled nursing homes, however,” says Mr. Kasarda, “can coordinate and tailor the care your loved one requires for their specific daily needs—that is, the staff will monitor their vital signs, properly give medications, provide physical therapy or restorative nursing therapies, and help toilet, bathe, clothe and feed your loved one—in a safe, peaceful and comfortable setting at an affordable rate.”

Taking care of a loved one day-in and day-out eventually could become physically and emotionally draining. This becomes even tougher when one is almost a senior themselves, has a job, and/or cares for their children or others. Before making any decision, it is imperative that you gauge and discuss with family members the level of caregiving required and whether nursing assistance (like timely and accurate medications administration, tailored diets and meals, measuring and recording blood pressure or sugar levels, physical therapy, scheduling and traveling to doctor appointments, etc.) is also needed in addition to the typical daily care your loved one may need such as feeding, bathing, toileting and dressing.

Respite care services are generally appropriate for those seniors needing daily around-the-clock care, adults with a physical disability, those who show increasing signs of serious forgetfulness—like leaving stove burners on overnight or wandering in the neighborhood, those who are suffering from various degenerative conditions (e.g., Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis), those with a failure to thrive, those who are at risk for falling, those who have recurring infections or open sores, those in hospice, those with cancer, or those with heart failure, for example.

Family home care is encouraged by some state government agencies for a number of reasons. Aside from being a loving act, this devotion helps reduce a state’s cost in covering seniors’ care through its Medicaid program. But, there is no safety net for caregivers when they need a break or additional help, except for 24/7 respite care, which may not be fully covered by Medicaid, Medicare or private health plans. In New Jersey, for example, respite care services, in some circumstances, may be covered by the state programs or private medical insurance provided the recipient is eligible and approved for such benefits. To learn more about New Jersey’s senior care programs, call our state’s Division of Aging Services at 877-222-3737 or go to the state’s website: Also, check with your county’s Office on Aging department about benefits for seniors and their families.

Finally, while Medicare, Medicaid or private medical insurances may or may not cover these short term services (depending on whether your loved one meets certain eligibility criteria and has been approved), finding the right skilled nursing home that offers certified respite care services is equally as important. To find one that meets your loved one’s needs, you should ask your friends, family, doctors, pastors and parishioners for a referral to a skilled nursing home with which they have had good experiences. It’s recommended that you take the time to visit at least three skilled nursing homes and ask or observe the following:

  1. Skilled Staff: Do they have the certified staff to provide the daily care required? Is the staff responsive and caring?
  2. Referrals: Talk to other residents’ family members if they are present as another referral source. What do they like and dislike?
  3. Cleanliness: Go and observe residents in the nursing home. Are they clean and dressed nicely? Does the facility smell pleasant?
  4. Food: Does the food look appetizing? Would you eat the meal?
  5. Activities: Are daily activities mentally stimulating and geared to help residents recall memories?
  6. Environment: Find out if the environment is conducive to your loved one’s needs, safety, health and comfort levels.
  7. Facility: Is the nursing home a single story building and easy to traverse for mobile residents?
  8. Location: Is the nursing home peaceful and far from the noise, commotion and pollution of busy roadways?

For a more complete list of questions to print go to the following website:

Visit several skilled nursing homes – both planned and by surprise – to make an informed decision on which can offer the respite care your loved one needs. “After all, a senior’s golden years should be about living in peace, happiness, dignity, comfort, safety and good health. Your loved one deserves excellent and comprehensive high skilled nursing care while you are away!” says Mr. Kasarda.


Editor: Dr. JP Hampilos of Senior Care Focus, LBHI; Excerpts from an interview with John E. Kasarda, Administrator, Little Brook Nursing and Convalescent Home on Vinay Singh’s article entitled “Respite Care Services Alleviating the Burden on Family Caregivers”; Source:

Senior Care Focus, Issue No. 16.2

© 2018 Little Brook Home, Inc.