We received a very happy message from a client whose mom had just moved into an assisted living for a respite stay. Her mother said the food was wonderful, the staff was terrific, and she could hardly believe how many interesting activities were available every day.
We were happy too… but not surprised! We hear this kind of thing all the time when older adults are given the chance to sample an assisted living before making a permanent move. It’s a low-pressure, zero-commitment way to get a first-hand feel for what it would be like.
What Is a Respite Stay?
As the name suggests, respite stays are always short term. However, they can apply to many different situations.
Sometimes, they occur right after rehab or a hospital stay to see if a person can manage successfully back home. Or, it may be that an in-home caregiver (e.g., spouse, child) is going to be travelling or simply needs a break from daily care.
Today, though, we are talking specifically about the situation described above — an older adult “trying out” an assisted living with the possibility of becoming a permanent resident.
When the Gain Outweighs the Risk
Nobody will make a major life change or spend a lot of money on an assisted living until the benefit they expect exceeds the perceived risk — what they believe they are giving up.
For those who are within their comfort zone in a house they have lived in for years, a neighborhood that feels familiar, and established daily routines, a move may seem out of the question — even if staying where they are has become increasingly difficult.
With a respite stay, they have the chance to sample what life could be like — to see how wonderful it could be — without the heaviness that comes with such a big decision. The power of a respite stay is in its lack of permanence and the impact it can have on someone who would otherwise not be open to considering a change.
Even those who try it out and return home almost always come back, as they realize how much they are struggling to manage everything.
How Does a Respite Stay Work?
Most communities have a minimum requirement of 30 days. And while we have seen some allow as little as two weeks, we think a month (at least) is best. It takes a week or two just to get settled and the additional time allows a person to get acclimated, make some new connections, and get a true sense of what life would be like.
The assisted living will provide a furnished apartment, so the new resident doesn’t have to move all their things. Still, we recommend bringing some favorite personal items, even a TV or favorite reclining chair, so it feels like a home, not a hotel.
In terms of timing, the more notice the better (of course). But due to the short-term nature of a respite stay and the reduced need to find a “perfect” fit from the start, there are often shorter wait times than with a permanent move.
Not Just for the Older Loved One
The benefits of a respite stay often reach beyond just the older adult themself. Often, the at-home family member is also reluctant to make a change, especially if it means giving up caregiving responsibilities.
They are understandably eager to make sure a move would be beneficial. Many times, it’s not until they see how much better their loved one is doing in the assisted living that they become comfortable and get on board.
Try It, You’ll Like It
With winter upon us and all that it brings — snow, ice, cold, difficulty getting out of the house — this is an ideal time to consider a respite stay as a way to introduce the reluctant older adult in your life to the idea of making a permanent move to an assisted living.
Everyone is interested in a successful outcome and this trial approach goes a long way towards achieving that goal.