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Preparing to Access Respite Care during Emergencies

by Jill Kagan, Respite Care Expert
September 03, 2015

Question: How should family caregivers prepare for accessing respite care during emergencies?

Answer: 1.    Before an emergency occurs, check with your physician or case manager (if you have one) for possible emergency respite providers in your locality.  Reach out to community or faith based agencies for recommendations of respite programs or volunteers who might be available in an emergency.

2.    Research options and funding sources for emergency respite before an emergency occurs.  Contact your state Lifespan Respite Program, state respite coalition, Medicaid agency, or Aging and Disability Resource Center for a list of possible services, funding possibilities and other resources for emergency care or search your state’s resources in the ARCH National Respite Locator Service (

3.    Once you have identified possible providers in closest proximity to you, reach out to potential providers to find out about their criteria and process for accessing care in an emergency and do as much advance planning as possible. If necessary, pre-certify the care recipient in more than one program or with more than one home care agency. Before an emergency occurs, utilize these providers for planned respite so that the provider and the care recipient will be prepared and comfortable with the respite arrangement in an emergency situation.

4.    Prepare a list of questions to ask potential providers. Questions to consider include whether the program can legally and safely administer medication, gastric tube feedings or other special medical procedures, and if the program has a risk management plan to protect care recipients.

5.    Inquire about the credentials and work experience of the staff/volunteers who will be providing care. If required, find out if providers are trained to deal with behavioral issues or dementia.

For more information and resources, see ARCH Fact Sheet 61: Emergency Respite: Help for Family Caregivers in Critical Times of Need

Jill Kagan, MPH, is the Director of the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center and Chair of its policy division, the National Respite Coalition. ARCH has been a leader in the areas of respite research and evaluation, training, advocacy, and consumer issues for more than twenty years.

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