Questions to ask about respite care facilities

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Sometimes caregivers need a break from the job. One way to make this happen is with respite care, with a substitute caregiver taking over care duties temporarily. In some cases, you may hire someone to come into your home to provide care. In others, you may take a loved one to a facility, such as an adult day care facility, or a long-term care facility that offers temporary stays of up to 30 days.

Whether you’re leaving a loved one in a facility for a day, a week, or a month, it’s essential to investigate the facility first. Here are some questions to ask.

  • Can you tour the facility, including the rooms where your loved one would stay or spend time?
  • Do people look happy, well-groomed, and engaged?
  • How would your loved one fit in with the other clients or residents in terms of level of engagement or care needs? Does anyone seem to be in a similar state as your loved one?
  • What would a typical day look like at the facility? Are there physical, social, and intellectual activities at a level suitable for your loved one?
  • How many staffers are working at a time, and what are their roles and training (for example, are they registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, or occupational therapists)?
  • If your loved one has certain needs for medication administration — for example, crushed pills, the application of special creams, or help with eye drops — are there qualified staffers who can assist with this?
  • Are there any time limitations for services, such as services offered only during business hours? What if your loved one needs something overnight?
  • Is there someone who will serve as the main contact person during your loved one’s stay?
  • How will staff communicate with you if there are any changes in your loved one’s health or behavior?
  • With whom can you share your loved one’s hobbies and interests so staff can connect with and get to know your loved one?
  • What types of food will be served? Does it seem appetizing or nutritious? Can you supply your own food?
  • If your loved one needs prompting or help eating, can that be provided?
  • For overnight stays, what kinds of things should your loved one bring or not bring? Facilities typically provide furniture, but you should ask about toiletries. It can be helpful to bring a couple of familiar items (use discretion about things that could get lost or broken), such as a familiar quilt or robe. A photo book can be a great way for your loved one to see familiar faces and for staff to be able to start a conversation.

About the Author

photo of Heidi Godman

Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman


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