The Research on Respite & Sustainable Caregiving


Short-term respite care is one of the most common services offered to family caregivers. Caregivers need respite to tend to their personal needs, relax, and re-energize. Although respite is the most popular social service support provided by our partners, many organizations have shared with us that they are unsure of the long-term benefits that respite care has to offer. Do caregivers show sustained signs of improved wellness and reduced burnout? 

After hearing this from numerous partner organizations, we decided to look to the academic literature for answers. 

Why is Respite Promoted?

Respite is often the most obvious service for organizations to offer their caregivers for a few reasons. First of all, it provides immediate relief for overwhelmed caregivers. There are a number of local providers and subcontractors that can provide respite, often on short-notice. Given the use of respite services over the years, agencies and governments are familiar with the funding model, and families understand the service provided.

What Kinds of Respite are Caregivers Receiving?

Respite can take many forms. Regardless of the way respite is offered, it is always a short-term service. For example, organizations may offer any of the following:

  • A single home visit 
  • Twice weekly visits for a limited number of weeks 
  • $500 vouchers for respite care 
  • Opportunities for people with dementia to partake in day programs

Does Respite Have Long-Term Benefits?

What does the literature say?

Respite care day programs for older adults with dementia can lead to positive outcomes for both caregivers and their loved ones. Research has shown that day programs can facilitate a decrease in caregiver burden and stress and also decrease behavioural problems among loved ones with dementia. These positive outcomes were further emphasized when the respite care programs offered support for caregivers (Vandepitte et al., 2016). Support can be provided in many ways. For example, providing direct contact with a case manager or offering caregiver counselling. 

Our clinical knowledge:

From our own research and clinical knowledge, we know that successful caregiver programs require supplementary support to drive sustained impact, not just single solutions. Respite is no exception. 

When respite care ends, caregivers must return to their duties. This can be stressful for caregivers, as they may have specific concerns that they don’t know how to deal with. If caregivers don’t know what to do, they may turn to unhelpful ways of coping, such as wishful thinking, denial, and avoidance strategies. A support program can help caregivers use positive coping strategies like identifying specific problems, exploring solutions, and taking action (Gillhooly et al., 2016). 

By providing support and helping caregivers feel more prepared to re-initiate their caregiving duties after respite care, organizations can help ensure caregivers are getting more than just immediate relief from their respite care. 


It’s no question that respite provides immediate relief, but caregivers and organizations need a more sustainable solution. 

Organizations must find a way to pair respite with a broader caregiver support program that focuses on sustainable and meaningful change. By doing so, organizations can revolutionize the benefits that respite can offer their caregivers. 

Interested in Learning More?

Contact Leda Rosenthal, Director of Growth, at or 1-800-214-5085 ext 1 to learn more about how on-demand, personalized education and training can supplement respite services to drive sustained impact with your family caregivers.

Click here for the list of references used in this research