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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

When it’s time for a breather: respite care for children with special needs


April 4, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

When it’s time for a breather: respite care for children with special needs

“When you’re caring for a child with special needs, other things often get pushed to the side – your own physical and emotional wellbeing, your relationship with your partner and the needs of other children in the family. Yet we know that one of the best ways to support children is to protect the family’s resiliency and ability to provide care.”

That’s Lisa Boyd Kirven, Regional Coordinator of the South West Region Respite Network, talking about why respite care is so important. Respite, says Kirven, is not about filling gaps in service or responding to emergencies. It’s a proactive strategy designed to help caregivers stay well and strong. “After all, the best place for a child to achieve their optimum ability is in the care of their family,” she says.

There are three kinds of respite care: in-home care provided by a respite support person on an hourly basis; out-of-home care provided for 24 to 48 hours in the home of a screened host family; or centre-based care, such as camps, day care settings, and other programs.

The website provides the full range of respite options available in each community. Most agencies have respite coordinators who work with families to identify the right options for them. “Often families start with a trial of a couple of hours, or whatever their comfort level is,” says Kirven. “Everything goes at the pace of the family and the child.”

Information about financial support for respite care is available at Children who are Medically Fragile Technologically Dependent may receive respite services through their local Community Care Access Centre.

If you’re new to respite care, Kirven suggests checking out, which offers a parent’s module with information about developing and maintaining a relationship with your respite provider.

“I really encourage families to seek out respite,” says Kirven. “Remember that it’s for you: it’s good self-care that builds your ability to care for your child and keep him or her at home.”