The top challenges listed by caregivers — 85 percent of all help given to elderly Americans is by a family member — are high emotional stress and depression.

Respite care gives a break to both the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer's.

Respite care can take place in the caregiver's home; in a day center, such as Alzheimer's Services' Charlie's Place Respite Center; in a residential home for overnight and/or weekend care; in some assisted and nursing home facilities; and in emergency respite sites.

Research has shown that caregivers of those with dementia or Alzheimer's who use adult day care experience lower levels of caregiving-related stress and better psychological well-being than a control group that did not use this service. These differences are found in both short-term (three months) and long-term (12 months) users.

Respite care allows loved ones to remain in the home for a longer period of time and has a host of other benefits:

  • Can reduce the risk of abuse and neglect
  • Enhances family coping abilities and increases feelings of well-being
  • Allows families to stay involved in their communities, helping them identify and establish additional support systems
  • Increases opportunities for social activities and family interactions
  • Improves attitudes toward the person with the special need or circumstance
  • Strengthens the family’s ability to care for their loved one at home
  • Saves public funds by reducing residential, hospital and other costly out-of-home placements.

It is important to identify the specific amount of respite time the caregiver needs, such as three hours a week or a whole weekend.

Then look at the needs of the affected person. Does the caregiver want respite care for his/her loved one simply for companionship? Or does the caregiver need extended respite services such as light housekeeping, personal care, transitioning to a wheelchair or therapy? Does the caregiver want a health care professional to stay at home with the affected person, or does the caregiver want to use an outside local respite center for the person to attend?

Once an outline of needs is made, the caregiver can reach out to friends and family members to assist in respite care or contact local agencies that specialize in respite care.

The journey of Alzheimer's disease is long and arduous for the caregiver. Respite care can re-energize them while offering the affected person an enhanced quality of life.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.