Evaluation of a weekend respite program for persons with Alzheimer Disease

Author(s): Perry, J. and Bontinen, K.

Published In: Can J Nurs Res, 33: 81–95

Study Aim/Purpose: This study explored family caregivers’ experience with a pilot weekend respite program in western Canada. The program provided respite care in a homelike environment for persons with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Summary of Methods: The authors conducted a qualitative assessment using multiple data collection methods. The data presented in this article were collected through telephone interviews with 19 caregivers. The interviews were conducted using a series of open-ended questions to learn about how caregivers used their time while their family member was attending the respite program and the caregivers’ views of the respite service and how it benefited their family member. The authors reviewed and coded the text in the interview transcripts to identify common themes. 

Summary of Results: The authors point out three areas of common themes or findings. First, the caregivers frequently reported that respite provides time for them to maintain their own health, maintain family and social relationships, and catch up on sleep and rest. Second, a common theme was the relief from stress and worry that the program offered for the caregiver. Finally, caregiver relief was found to be largely tied to their perception that family members enjoyed the respite care experience and that they were safe and comfortable there. At the same time, caregivers noted the difficulty of transitioning their family member to the program, though they perceived the physical and emotional benefits to their family member as outweighing the costs to them of this short term stress. 

Study Limitations (as cited by authors): The authors recognize that the small size and design of their study does not allow for generalizability of the findings. 

Authors’ Discussion/Conclusions: The authors close the article by stating “that more traditional approaches to respite care could be replaced by models that focus on the experience of the caregiver.” They further recommend an “approach that reflects the findings regarding the caregivers’ needs for security and quality of care for their family member” which “could help maintain family identify and reduce the feeling of abandoning or ‘handing over’ a loved one.”