How to Make a Respite Care Plan

Respite Care Plan

A respite care plan is designed to give caregivers a break for a limited period of time. It enables someone else to provide interim care so a primary caregiver can go on vacation, recover from sickness, or just recharge their batteries.

The busy holiday season can be a tough time for caregivers. Coming out of this hectic season, some caregivers may feel the need to take some time off for themselves. A respite care plan is a great way to temporarily distribute caregiving responsibilities to others so primary caregivers can take a break and the elderly parent or loved one is still assured their needs are covered. A respite care plan is an essential factor in preventing caregiver burnout.

Your respite care plan will include tools to make everyone feel more comfortable in times of change. Simple additions, like an in-home medical alert system, can make caregiver transitions easier on both you and your loved one.

Why It’s Important to Take Breaks as A Caregiver

AARP reported high levels of caregiver burnout in its “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report. Over 30% of caregivers report high levels of emotional stress due to caregiving, and just under 20% of caregivers report high levels of physical stress. 

The Cleveland Clinic describes caregiver burnout as a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.” When a caregiver overworks, it impacts not only their own health, but the health of their loved one in their charge. If a caregiver works too long without breaks, they can experience:

  • feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety
  • feelings of guilt for wishing to take time off
  • physical ailments as a result of over-extension
  • extreme fatigue
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • social withdrawal

Caregivers should negotiate a clearly defined break schedule that allows them to recover from the emotional and physical demands of their responsibilities. 

Do you feel like you need a break but don’t want to leave your loved one without care? A respite care plan can help you get a break from caregiving stress while still providing your loved one with the necessary support. Creating a respite care plan and implementing safety measures at home, like helping your loved one select a medical alert system to protect them when you cannot be present, can reduce the risk of caregiver burnout. 

What Is Included in a Respite Care Plan?

A respite care plan is a set of information that can help temporary or intermittent caregivers provide the same standard of care when the primary caregiver is not available. This plan might include important documents or other instructions for your loved one’s care[1]. The day-to-day information necessary for a respite care plan can also provide the basis for a smooth transition to a new caregiver, if necessary.

You should create a respite care plan even if you have no intention of taking time off in the near future. If a caregiver sustains an injury or prolonged illness, or passes away, a respite care plan can allow for a smooth transition to a new caregiver. Caregivers who need time away can leave with the knowledge that their elderly parent, friend or family member will receive consistent, quality care. 

Respite care plans can cover periods of time as short as a few hours, to even weeks- or months-long breaks. Whether you need a short break to visit your own doctor, or a few weeks of vacation with your family, a respite care plan allows a smooth transition of duties.[2]

How To Create A Respite Care Plan

In order to create a respite care plan, you will need to gather and record information about your loved one. Some caregivers decide to have a paper copy for easy access and an online copy for safekeeping and updating.

Try to involve your loved one as much as possible in the respite care planning process. Inform them as soon as possible of your plans to take time off and make sure they are comfortable with the arrangements you make. 

Backup Respite Care Options

You should create a respite care plan intended for a family member or other close relation, as well as a respite care plan for an outside hire. Though your loved one’s care plan might not include using a service, it is best to have a backup plan just in case you cannot find a replacement caregiver in their circle of family, friends, or community members.

The stress of finding a suitable replacement caregiver can add to caregiver burnout. Consider having a professional respite care backup plan even if you expect a close relation to take over for you. 

Elements Needed in a Respite Care Plan

A strong respite care plan includes medical history and up-to-date medical information (including medication and dosage schedule), upcoming appointments, nutritional requirements, daily routines, hobbies and potential activities, and an emergency response plan. See below for specifics on each section you should include in your loved one’s respite care plan.

Medical History and Up-To-Date Medical Information

  • Create a list of medications that your loved one uses, including dosages and instructions[3]
  • Put medications in a location the new caregiver can easily access. Keep all medications in their original bottles with the appropriate labels.  
  • Write a summary of your loved one’s medical history with pertinent information. Add basic details about your loved one’s care team and plan, as well.
  • Write a more in-depth description of your loved one’s medical history in case of emergency. Provide any medical information that would be helpful in a crisis. You can find more emergency response action items below.
  • Provide names and contact information for doctors that have prescribed medication for your loved one. This is also part of your emergency response plan.
  • Provide a list of your loved one’s allergies. You should list any allergies, including those pertaining to household irritants, dietary restrictions, and medications. If there are any nutritional or dietary requirements, outline them as well.
  • Make sure all tools are easily accessible (hearing aids, glasses, an In-Home + Fall Detection medical alert system, extra batteries, etc.) for daily use and in case of emergency.

Daily Routines

  • Note major parts of your loved one’s daily routines, such as what time your loved one usually sleeps, wakes, naps, and eats. You can provide approximate times and any information that might be helpful for sleeping or mealtimes.
  • Note any medication schedules. Add this information to the medication section as well as the daily routines section. Multiple schedule reminders are helpful for someone who is just learning your loved one’s rhythms. 
  • Note any activities that your loved one might need assistance with, including hygiene, personal care, walking, etc.
  • Include times during the day that your loved one might have more energy and times that your loved one might need more rest. 

Hobbies And Potential Activities

  • Create a list of your loved one’s favorite activities. This is a great opportunity for your loved one to collaborate on the respite care plan. If possible, allow them to take charge as much as possible. If you and your loved one are having trouble coming up with ideas, you could include calling friends or family, doing puzzles, writing letters, walking with an On-the-Go medical alert system, playing board games, or listening to music.  

Emergency Response Plan

  • Gather a list of emergency contacts (name, relation, phone number, additional phone number, address). Some of this information might overlap with the section that includes your loved one’s medical history. It helps to have this information twice in case of emergency.
  • Provide address, phone number, and hours of operation for nearby hospitals, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers.
  • Create an evacuation plan specifically for your loved one and give the replacement caregiver a copy.

A Medical Alert System Enhances Your Respite Care Plan

A respite care plan works best with support tools in place. Some ways to enhance your respite care plan include:

  • Talking to a professional about caregiver stress
  • Joining a caregiver support group[4]
  • Recognizing your limits and drawing boundaries
  • Providing your loved one with a medical alert system to assure peace of mind that help is always available, round the clock, even when you can’t be there

Emergency button alarms for seniors and the elderly can help relieve caregiver stress by providing at-home or on-the-go support when your loved one is alone. With just the press of a button, help is available—at any time of the day or night. Additionally, an optional built-in fall detection feature can sense falls and automatically send an alert to the monitoring center without the wearer even needing to press an alert button. Alert1 services include trained, certified agents who stay on the line with members until help arrives—so no one ever experiences an emergency alone. It’s an easy addition that brings peace and security to an elderly adult  and their family, as well as a potentially life-saving device. 

Choosing Your Loved One’s Alert1 Medical Alert System

If your loved one spends parts of the day alone, it might be a good idea to choose a medical alert system with fall detection technology. For example, your loved one is walking around the neighborhood and takes a fall but cannot press the button on their medical alert system. Fall detection technology senses the fall and automatically places a call to Alert1’s 24/7/365 Command Center. The On-the-Go + Fall Detection personal emergency response system (PERS) is a great choice for active seniors. Caregivers can relax with the knowledge that Alert1 does not ever charge for multiple button pushes or “false alarms.”

Finding the right emergency alarm button system for your loved one can help pull a respite care plan together, bringing peace of mind to you, your parent or loved one, and the entire care team.





[1] Winke, Rebecca. 2021, Sept. 7. How to Organize and Store Important Documents at Home. How to Organize and Store Important Documents at Home.

[2] Carroll, Linda. 2012, Dec. 11. Caregivers neglect their own health in order to look after others. NBC News. Caregivers neglect their own health in order to look after others.

[3] Grimm, Elizabeth. 2014, Jul. 10. Managing Medications: How to Build a Medication List. Managing Medications: How to Build a Medication List.

[4] Mercer, Marsha. 2021, Aug. 31. How to Find a Caregiver Support Group That’s Right for You. How to Find a Caregiver Support Group That’s Right for You.