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I am a Caregiver of a Child

Most parents would agree that the early years with kids are some of the most challenging. But soon enough the kids are walking and talking, starting school and then going off to college. With each step the child takes toward independence, parents reclaim a little of their freedom.

But for parents of a child with a disability or special health care needs, independence looks very different and does not have such a predictable timetable.

Many parents of special needs children are prepared to give everything to keep their child comfortably at home. However, that same devotion can cause:

  • caregivers to neglect their own health,
  • friction within families, and
  • extra stress at work or school.

That's why when you have a child with special needs, it is important to develop a plan so that you can have time away from the demands of parenting.

The Texas Children's Policy Council estimates 9-13% of Texas children have some type of disability, with the highest growth rates in mental, behavioral and emotional conditions. In addition, about 14% of children under 18 have some type of special health care need.

Find a Respite Provider

Can My Family Provide Respite?

Sometimes, a family member or friend can step in and watch your child when you need a break. Other times, you may have to find a professional respite provider. Some government programs — such as those funded by Medicaid or the state of Texas — may include respite services.

Who cares for your child is really about what is right for you and your child.

Visit "What is Respite," for more information about the types of respite available.

Where Is Respite Provided?

Where you get respite depends on family preferences, available services and other factors. The most important thing is that you find what is right for your family and that you, as caregiver, get a break.

Finding and training a reliable respite caregiver is a precious thing! A few moments alone with a spouse or sibling is treasured when I know my child is safe and taken care of.

Respite can be provided in many places:

  • In your home
  • The home of a family or friend
  • At a specialized camp
  • At a specialized facility (for extended care)

Visit "What is Respite," for more information about the types of respite available.

How do I Find a Respite Provider?

Please visit our searchable list of respite providers and programs in Texas. It includes all types of providers and you can search it based on the type of service you need and where you live.

If you are looking for more informal arrangements, you might consider asking family or friends for help, putting a notice up at your church, placing an ad in the paper or forming a caregiver cooperative. More ideas can be found in Get Creative About Respite Care: A Parent's Guide (PDF), from the Connecticut Lifespan Respite Coalition.

Common Myths about Respite for Children

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They are actually two different things:

  • Respite is a much needed break for caregivers.

  • Hospice is for anyone who has been diagnosed with any terminal illness and given six months or less to live. (Learn more about hospice.)

As with all things in life, what you need often determines the cost.

If you need someone to keep your child company while you run errands, you might be able to get a family member or friend to stay with him or her while you are out. Or you might even be able to hire a student or retiree for a reasonable amount.

If your loved one needs more than a companion, you likely will want to find a respite provider with trained staff. Before you worry about the cost, find out if your family member qualifies for state or federal programs that might cover the cost. These may include Medicaid, Medicare and others.

  • To find out if your family member might qualify for Medicaid or other state programs, call 1-855-937-2372 to talk with a trained professional about your options in Texas.

  • To find out about Medicare benefits, visit Medicare.gov.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has published a booklet, Get Creative with Respite (PDF), with more ideas to help you find a way to afford respite services.

The most affordable options are likely available through state or federal programs, and not all of them have waiting lists. Our searchable list of respite providers and programs in Texas includes nonprofit and volunteer respite programs.

Respite saved our marriage — we desperately needed time to reconnect and respite gave us that time.

Family caregivers can face years of caregiving responsibility. Without adequate help and support, the stress of caregiving can leave you vulnerable to a range of physical and emotional problems, ranging from heart disease to depression. If you start to suffer, who will take care of your child?

According to HelpGuide.org, when caregiver stress and burnout puts your own health at risk, it affects your ability to provide care. It hurts both you and the person you're caring for. The key point is that caregivers need care too. Managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor's appointment or takes her medication on time.

They offer these tips for dealing with caregiver stress and burnout.

  • Ask for help.
  • Give yourself a break.
  • Practice acceptance.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Join a support group.

The Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire is designed to help caregivers look at their own behavior and health risks.

While family and friends may not be able to take care of your child with complex needs, professional respite providers are equipped to do so.

Some questions to help you screen potential respite providers include:

  • How do you screen your employees?
  • Do they conduct background checks for state and federal offenses?
  • What is their training and level of experience?
  • Will they need additional training to meet specific family needs?
  • Can I meet and interview the people who will care for my family member?
  • Can I request the same employee each time?

Please visit our searchable list of respite providers and programs in Texas. It includes all types of providers and you can search it based on the type of service you need and where you live.

If your child needs a companion while you take a break, there are many options available. You can ask family or friends to help out. You can hire a student or retiree looking to make a little extra cash. Even some churches or civic organizations have informal respite programs.

If your family member needs a higher level of care, you still have options. Please visit our searchable list of respite providers and programs in Texas. It includes all types of providers and you can search it based on the type of service you need and where you live.

And if you are not sure how to pay for services, call 1-855-937-2372 to talk with a trained professional about your options in Texas.

Where Can I Learn More?

* Quotes from caregivers provided by Texas Parent 2 Parent.

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Updated: July 19, 2017