How Do I Choose a Respite Provider?

Leaving your loved one in the care of another for even an hour can be a source of stress and anxiety. However, as we know, it is imperative for the caregiver to have regular breaks from caregiving (respite). In an ideal situation, most caregivers would prefer to leave their loved one with a family member or friend, someone that the person they care for knows and feels comfortable with. But oftentimes we must seek respite from a paid provider or volunteer. To help both the caregiver and the care receiver feel comfortable, it is important to find the right person and to make sure that the respite provider adequately meets your expectations and is well-suited to meet the needs of your loved one.

Information on where to find respite providers for seniors, types of respite care, and the cost of these services can be found online at

How do I choose a respite provider?
Choosing a respite provider can be a daunting task.  Should you call an agency?  Or ask your cousin Martha?  Either way, remember that you have the right to interview the person who will be spending time with your loved one.  If you don’t feel comfortable leaving, you’re not going to feel well rested when you come home.  Before you choose a respite provider, here are a few tips to make sure you’ve got the right person for you and your loved one.

  • Create an outline of the qualities and skills you are looking for in a respite provider.  Be specific.  What personality traits will best suit your loved one?  Do you need someone who will easily be able to read nonverbal cues?  How important is a sense of humor? Are you looking for someone who can easily adapt to your loved ones mood changes?  Do they need to be able to lift and transfer your loved one? Or provide wound care?
  • Develop a list of questions to ask potential candidates.  Some examples may include:
    • What specialized knowledge do you possess?  (Example:  Are you an expert at defusing emotional outbursts?)
    • Are you trained in 1st Aid or CPR?
    • What is your experience caring for someone with ___________?
    • Why do you want to be a respite provider?
    • What are your strengths?
    • What are your weaknesses?
    • Share a scenario that the respite provider may encounter with your loved one and ask how they would handle it.
    • Get specific about the needs of your loved one and ask about the candidate’s comfort level.
    • What is your communication style and preference?  How would you resolve disagreements?
    • Are you willing to take my loved one on outings?
    • Describe a difficult situation you encountered.  How did you handle it?
    • Be clear about your expectations and ask the candidate what their expectations are of you.
    • Do you have a valid driver’s license?  Auto Insurance?
    • May I conduct a background check?
    • Discuss your policy for planned vacations/absences.  How much time will you need to find an adequate substitute?
  • If possible, include your loved one in the interview process.
  • Request at least 3 personal and professional references, and be sure to follow-up with them.
    • Verify the information the candidate shared with you.
    • Ask them to describe the nature of their relationship.
    • Ask about the candidate’s reliability, punctuality, and ability to handle stress.
  • Discuss time commitment and payment.  Consider creating a contract.
  • Plan ahead:  Discuss your preference for how taxes will be handled.
  • Schedule a training session so that the respite provider can “shadow” you and learn first-hand how to provide for the specific needs of your loved one.

Background Checks
Remember that it is your right as a caregiver to conduct an interview with potential respite providers, as well as a background check. There are many levels of background checks, from simple name-based computer checks to fingerprinting to National Sex Offender Registry checks. With the various levels of background checks comes a variety of fees.  A good place to start is the Idaho Criminal History Unit housed on the Department of Health and Welfare website:  You may also want to conduct a background check through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation which is housed at the Idaho State Police Office.