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How Respite Care Brings Relief for Caregiver Burnout


Demands of Caregiving

Caregiving for someone who is ill can be stressful, but when that someone is in the final stages of life, caregiving takes on different challenges. Care requirements are often escalated, with medications given more frequently, special wound care that may be needed, as well as assistance with feeding and toileting. The uncertainty of when death will occur also puts emotional pressure on the caregiver.

All of this can cause cuidadores to lose sleep and live in isolation and fear, which can result in depression, fatigue and anxiety, also referred to as “caregiver burnout.”¹ To deter this, it is essential that those taking care of the dying also take care of themselves by getting plenty of rest and making time for themselves away from the demands of caregiving.

End-of-life patients receiving hospice services are eligible for “respite care,” defined and covered by the Medicare hospice benefit. Hospice respite care allows a family caregiver to get a break from caregiving duties while the patient is cared for in a Medicare-certified inpatient facility.

See a list of all VITAS Inpatient Hospice Unit locations

What Is Respite Care?

Medicare defines respite care as, “… short-term inpatient care provided to the individual only when necessary to relieve the family members or the person caring for the individual at home.”²

Situations that are considered necessary include:

  • Caregivers who may be suffering from physical or emotional exhaustion from taking care of a patient around the clock
  • Caregivers who would like to attend a family event such as a graduation, wedding, funeral, etc.
  • Caregivers who become ill and cannot take care of the patient.

Who Provides Respite Care?


In the event of these kinds of situations, the beneficios de hospicio pays for a patient to stay in a Medicare-certified facility for up to five days and nights while the caregiver is away. Members of the hospice care team, who are in a position to notice the symptoms of caregiver burnout, can ask the team physician to provide orders to admit a patient into a Medicare-approved facility, such as a hospice inpatient unit, a bed in a hospital contracted by the hospice, or a nursing home.

Once the patient is admitted, the hospice team continues to expedite the patient's plan of care, while the facility staff provides the care that would have been given by the family caregiver. Under the hospice benefit, inpatient respite care can be provided on an occasional basis, ensuring that the caregiver can relax and enjoy time away knowing his or her loved one is in good hands.

Not every caregiver needs a break of up to five days and nights, which respite care provides. Relief from caregiving can also be provided by other means. When a hospice care team member, including a hospice volunteer, arrives [at the home] or a trusted friend is visiting [the home], the family caregiver may utilize that time to run errands, take a walk or meet friends.

Re-energizing the Caregiver with Respite Care

Spending time with others or taking a short trip can help caregivers catch up on much needed rest, gain perspective and foster a more positive attitude. To get the most from respite care, caregivers are encouraged to plan ahead to decide how they will spend this time. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center recommends that caregivers take regular and sufficient amounts of respite time and make this a meaningful and purposeful break from routine³.

Respite Care is One of Our Four Levels of Care

VITAS ofrece cuatro tipos amplios, o niveles, de cuidados según la definición de los beneficios de hospicio de Medicare:

  • Cuidado de rutina a domicilio. This is how we provide cuidado de hospicio most often: in patients’ homes, long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
  • Cuidado continuo (Intensive Comfort Care®). When medically necessary, acute symptom management is provided at home or in another facility by hospice staff in shifts of up to 24 hours/day so the patient can avoid hospitalization.
  • Cuidado de pacientes hospitalizados. Si no se puede atender a las necesidades del paciente en su casa, se puede recurrir a las unidades de cuidados de hospicio para pacientes hospitalizados de VITAS y a otros servicios especiales en otros establecimientos locales que ofrecen cuidados de hospicio las veinticuatro horas hasta que el paciente pueda regresar a casa.
  • Cuidado temporal. Limitado a hasta cinco días consecutivos, el cuidado temporal es un breve "descanso" para el cuidador primario del paciente en el que el paciente que recibe cuidados a domicilio es hospitalizado sin que cumpla con los criterios para control de los síntomas y el dolor para "pacientes hospitalizados".

¹Click for source/

²National Palliative Care Organization. Level of Care Tip Sheet, 2012. www.nhpco.org/regulatroy


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Cuidadores: si se siente abrumado recuerde estas letras: "HESC"