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Refining our Respite Care Program

We know that in order to fully participate in a support group, consultation, or educational event at Normandale Center, a caregiver must know that their loved one is safe, happy and in good hands. Knowing this, we implemented respite care years ago to increase the quality of service and the experience for caregivers that visit The Center. For example, during our Second Saturday for Caregivers program, we offer group respite care for adults suffering from dementia or other chronic illnesses for three hours each month so that their caregivers can take time for themselves to learn, connect with others and attend a support group. Activities during respite are meant to entertain and engage. We have sung along to music, read stories, done crafts, colored, gone for walks and played trivia. All of these activities have provided social interaction and healthy engagement for our clients, the care receivers.

We were curious to learn which activities offer the most care and value to the care receivers during the time they spend with us.

In late 2022, we conducted a survey to collect feedback from caregivers about our respite care with the hopes of learning more about the needs of the care receiver. We learned that all of those in respite enjoy listening to music and spending time with therapy pets the most. In fact, 100 percent of those participating in the survey reported that these activities are well received by their loved one in respite care. Survey participants also reported that they would not like to participate in activities together with their care receiver at the Center. This was explained by the amount of time the care partners already spend together outside of our services. We also learned from the survey that the social interaction is very important. Conversations with staff members, volunteers and other respite participants are highly valued and are often prompted by fun trivia games such as BINGO. The three most appreciated activities included:

  1. Listening to music

  2. Interacting with therapy animals and with one another

  3. Doing creative activities such as crafts

Non-interactive activities such as watching movies are not as well received which is helpful information for our staff to help guide us in future respite events. To further understand how to refine the quality of care we offer we can look for information from other professionals.

Research has shown that the use of music in care of dementia patients can be very engaging and beneficial (Senior Management, n.d.). It has been shown that lyrics to songs from an individual's teenage years are retained for quite a while after the onset of dementia (Kelleher, 2001). When dementia patients are reminded of familiar lyrics, old memories can be regathered and retained in their minds (Kelleher, 2001). This is also an enjoyable experience for those who may struggle to unlock those memories independently. A group of patients can bond together over the shared appreciation for music (Kelleher, 2001).

Other research has shown that interaction with animals can be beneficial to dementia patients (Filan & Llewellyn-Jones, 2006). Engagement with a being that does not require a response or conversation can be comforting to someone with memory loss. Animals are able to attend to individuals due to their entertaining and stimulating nature. Feeling the soft fur of a dog or cat is not only comforting, but stimulating as well. Studies have shown that the presence of a dog is able to reduce agitation and prompt social interaction (Filan & Llewellyn-Jones, 2006). This can be very beneficial to care receivers who are distressed by a new setting or absence of their family (Filan & Llewellyn-Jones, 2006). By use of therapy animals we can engage our respite participants and decrease anxiety of being apart from caregivers. The use of technology for respite care has been recommended by recent research (Leng, et al., 2014). Respite services have tested the use of an iPad to engage client’s interests. Downloading games and apps to entertain clients relieves stress and prompts use of neural pathways (Leng, et al., 2014). Some respite services have used iPads to promote the flow of conversation or to facilitate group activities with participants. Research has recommended one iPad for every six clients participating in respite services (Leng, et al., 2014).

The use of handheld technology is an activity that the Center has not utilized in the past (Leng, et al., 2014). Experimenting with this sort of engagement strategy could allow new possibilities within our respite program. Clients who become easily agitated or anxious could be directed to music or reading on an iPad without disturbing other members of the group. This would also allow those who have difficulty with social conversation to stimulate their senses through use of a game or video.

Using clues from our past respite activities, the recent survey responses, and recent research we can refine our respite program to be a welcoming, fun and exciting time for our clients, the care receivers. Thank you to everyone that completed our survey. We are excited to continue to provide meaningful care and activities for your loved ones.


Kelleher, A. Y. (2001). The beat of a different drummer: Music therapy's role in dementia respite care. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 25(2), 75-84.

Senior Management , S. S. of A. (n.d.). 15 meaningful activities for dementia patients. Senior Services of America. Retrieved November 16, 2022, from

Leng, F. Y., Yeo, D., George, S., & Barr, C. (2014). Comparison of iPad applications with traditional activities using person-centered care approach: impact on well-being for persons with dementia. Dementia, 13(2), 265-273.4

Filan, S. L., & Llewellyn-Jones, R. H. (2006). Animal-assisted therapy for dementia: a review of the literature. International psychogeriatrics, 18(4), 597-611.

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