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What Is Respite Care? 

Respite care is temporary or part-time care provided by a healthcare professional in place of the primary care partner (also called caregiver) of a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) on dialysis. The duration of respite care can vary, depending on your needs, from several hours a day to an entire week. If you’re a primary care partner, you may feel that you rarely have the opportunity to rest. According to the 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving article, "Caregiving in the U.S.," 86 percent of primary care partners are relatives of the patient. Statistics also show that more than half of all caregivers report that their duties cause them to lose time with family and friends.

The effort required by people who take on this important role has gained national attention. In 2006, Congress authorized the Lifespan Respite Care Program, an act to help expand and enhance respite services throughout the United States. According to their website, the programs brings together "Federal, state and local resources and funding to help support, expand and streamline the delivery of planned and emergency respite services. One goal is to improve the "overall quality of the respite services currently available." As awareness grows, access to respite care may become easier to obtain and may help alleviate the weight that you bear as a care partner.

Why is respite care important? 

Most primary care partners have multiple responsibilities. More than half have full- or part-time jobs, 63 percent are either married or living with a partner, and over one-third have children under 18 living at home. Juggling all of these roles can become challenging. In some surveys, care partners ranked respite care number one when asked what can be done to help relieve stress. Occasional breaks can help you recharge mentally and perhaps maintain your physical health.

How does someone on dialysis get respite care?

Whether your loved one does in-center dialysis or home dialysis treatments, respite care can cater to a patient’s needs while you’re gone.

  • For people who do in-center hemodialysis or in-center nocturnal hemodialysis: Hire a professional respite caregiver to take your loved one to and from the dialysis center. The respite caregiver can also administer medications or put together kidney-friendly meals for the patient.
  • For people on home hemodialysis (HHD): Utilizing in-center treatment while you’re away is a respite care option. Similar to someone who does in-center treatments regularly, you can hire a respite caregiver to provide transportation to and from the center as well as help with other medical care at home. Additionally, DaVita readily offers respite care services for all HHD patients and care partners. If you're interested in respite care, please contact your home training nurse.
  • For people on peritoneal dialysis (PD): Although many people on PD don’t need a care partner to perform treatments, your loved one may need assistance with other things while you’re away. Schedule a respite caregiver to help with specific errands or any necessary medical care; the respite caregiver may need to come once a day or every other day. Whatever the need, a respite caregiver is there to help maintain a customary schedule while you’re away.

If you need help finding respite care for your loved one, call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator Services at 1-800-677-1116. ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is a website that has a respite caregiver locator. And your state’s website will likely have a section on respite care that provides resources for this service. Cost varies and insurance will likely not cover the expense for this type of care.

For those who find that they cannot afford professional respite care services, they should consider asking family, friends, church or temple members and other patients regarding transportation or in-home help. You never know who is willing to help until you ask, even if it’s for only one day that allows you to take a moment for yourself. Also, if you are a care partner of a DaVita patient, talk to your loved one's care team. They can help you find the services and resources you need.

Summary

Being a primary care partner for a loved one can be rewarding, but it also can become overwhelming when coordinating these obligations with the other responsibilities in your life. While most full-time jobs offer time off for vacation, caring for a chronically ill person doesn’t include such a benefit. Respite care allows you to take a moment for yourself while your loved one receives the adequate care he or she needs.


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