Respite care, for those who don’t know, is a type of care provided to children and adults who require special care due to various types of diseases, disabilities, and disorders (in this case, autism). Respite care workers replace parents or full-time carers for short periods of time when they need to take a break or tend to other obligations.
If you are the parent or full-time caretaker of someone with autism, you may already know that respite care is very important. And if you don’t know exactly how vital respite care is to the health of your family, check out this page. You can also get tips there for finding and funding respite care for someone with autism, as well as learn how to get over the guilt you may feel for needing it.
But the sad reality is that even many of the people who do know what respite care is still lack a firm understanding of why it’s so important and how to make it feasible for their family. Only about 64% of autism families report using this type of care, which is far too low. So we’ve compiled some compelling facts about respite care for autism that may just be the little push you needed to help get you started or remind you that you’re doing the right thing.
8. Respite care isn’t a luxury.
For many families, respite care is indeed a necessity. You cannot effectively care for someone (with or without autism) if your own needs are not being met. These needs are different for everyone, but they may include going to the doctor or running errands, getting some alone time, or having the chance to spend some quality time with your significant other. No matter what you need the time off for, your entire family will benefit from your ability to take a physical and mental break from caregiving, even if it’s only for an hour or two.
7 . Respite care is not a form of giving up.
Many parents have trouble asking for and accepting help, because they feel like they shouldn’t need it (and a variety of other reasons). But everyone needs a break from time to time, autism parents included. We’re only human, after all. We all need to get away from our lives once in a while, and that doesn’t mean you love your child any less. It’s important to get your own needs met and have the chance to get away so that when you return, you’re refreshed and able to be the best parent and caregiver you can be. Respite care, therefore, isn’t about “giving up,” it’s a time for “fueling up.”
6. Respite care reduces stress and improves marriages.
A study on the subject found that each hour of respite care received has a positive effect on parents’ stress levels (big surprise) and also improves their marriages. Brigham Young University and Wasatch Mental Health researchers had this to say about the results:
“Just one additional hour of respite care per week was related to an increase of six to seven points in marital quality, which is approximately one half of a standard deviation. This finding offers hope to couples parenting a child with ASD.”
5. Respite care decreases the risk of psychiatric hospitalization.
The jury’s still out on whether or not the risk of psychiatric hospitalization goes down for parents and full-time caretakers who take respite care breaks, but there is data showing that autistic children and young adults who have respite caretakers are less likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric issues.
This doesn’t mean that you’re not a good parent or caretaker—maybe even the best. What it does mean is that, as we mentioned before, everyone needs a break. The child or adult you’re responsible for will reap the benefits of your decreased stress level too.