The effects of respite care on informal carers' well-being: a systematic review

S McNally, Y Ben-Shlomo, S Newman
Disability and Rehabilitation 1999, 21 (1): 1-14

PURPOSE: The provision of respite care is a common method employed to reduce the burden on those who care for individuals with a chronic illness or disability. The aim of the present review was to examine research on respite provision with a view to establishing what effect it has on carers.

METHOD: A literature search was conducted for studies examining the effect of respite provision on carers, 'Psyclit', 'Medline' and Social Science Citation Index computerized databases were utilized, followed by a search of the reference sections of relevant studies.

RESULTS: The search yielded 29 studies, from which there was little evidence that respite intervention has either a consistent or enduring beneficial effect on carers' well-being. This may be due in part to the fact that the majority of the work conducted has been methodologically poor. Also significant, however, might be that the findings suggest respite care often fails to facilitate the maintenance of socially supportive relationships, which may moderate strain after respite has ended.

CONCLUSIONS: A more 'carer-centred' approach is required in both the provision and evaluation of respite care intervention. This approach would address the experiences of both caregiver and care-recipient during the respite period.

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