The Benefits of Respite Time-Use: A Comparison of Employed and Nonemployed Caregivers

Author(s): Utz, R.L., Lund, D.A., Caserta, M.S., and Wright, S.D.

Published In: Journal of Applied Gerontology, 31: 438-461

Study Aim/Purpose: The primary objective of this study was to describe and compare how employed and nonemployed caregivers of older adults spend their time and are satisfied with their use of time while their family members are in adult day respite center care. The benefits caregivers received from their respite time-use as well as how they thought they might be able to use this time more effectively were also examined. 

Summary of Methods: The study used interviewed 48 caregivers using adult day respite in the western United States, of which 26 had paid employment and 22 were not employed. The data were collected through interviews that involved “three fixed-choice questions,” open-ended questions and a 4-day activity log, in which caregivers logged the amount of time they spent on a list of 19 different activities and how much time they would have liked to spend on each activity during their respite time (actual vs. desired time-use). 

Summary of Results: Employed caregivers were generally more satisfied with respite time-use than nonemployed respite users and employed caregivers were also more likely to do activities that they desired to do. On the other hand, 40% of the nonemployed group felt they could have used their respite time more effectively. “Almost all of the employed caregivers mentioned “employment” or “work” as the number one most helpful or anticipated way to spend respite time,” yet most also said that lack of free time outside of work and caregiving were stressful and they desired more respite time. Nonemployed caregivers wanted to use their respite time better to reduce feelings of “wasted time and opportunity.” Employed and nonemployed caregivers reported similar levels of caregiver burden. As a result, caregiver burden did not confound the relationship between employment status and time-use patterns during respite. 

Study Limitations (as cited by authors): The authors note the small sample size of their study and its lack of generalizability, while stressing the strength of its qualitative and exploratory nature including personalized accounts of caregivers’ time-use patterns and perceptions of the benefits of respite time. 

Authors’ Discussion/Conclusions: The authors recommend that “future studies using a larger sample should explicate the relationship between time-use consistency (actual vs. desired) and mental health, while controlling for the factors that may select caregivers either into employed or nonemployed roles.” The authors recommend that practice and policies focus on enhancing caregivers use of respite time, including increasing respite time and providing assistance to caregivers to help them set goals and plan in advance how to best use their respite time which in turn “may allow caregivers to be more effective and fulfilled in their caregiving role…”