Respite care for people with dementia and their carers

  • Review
  • Intervention




Caring for someone with dementia can be emotionally and physically demanding. Respite care is any intervention designed to give rest or relief to caregivers. It is not clear what positive and negative effects the provision of respite care may have on people with dementia and their caregivers.


To assess the effects of respite care for people with dementia and their caregivers, in particular the effect of respite care on rates of institutionalization.

Search methods

The trials were identified from a search of the Specialized Register of the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group, The Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and LILACS on 10 December 2007 using the terms respite* OR daycare OR caregiver* relief. The Specialized Register contains up to date records from all major healthcare databases and many ongoing trial databases.

Selection criteria

Randomized controlled trials comparing respite care with a control intervention for people with dementia.

Data collection and analysis

Both reviewers carried out study selection independently and reached a consensus through discussion. Data was extracted by a single reviewer. The reviewers contacted all investigators for methodological details not reported in the text and for additional data.

Main results

Three trials were included in the review. They were different in many ways including intervention, duration and outcomes so pooling of data was not possible. Re-analysis of outcomes using data from the published studies found no significant effects of respite care on any variable.

Authors' conclusions

Current evidence does not demonstrate any benefits or adverse effects from the use of respite care for people with dementia or their caregivers. These results should be treated with caution, however, as they may reflect the lack of high quality research in this area rather than an actual lack of benefit. Given the frequency with which respite care is advocated and provided, well-designed trials in this area are needed.

Plain language summary

No evidence of efficacy of respite care for people with dementia or for their caregivers

The aims of respite care are to decrease caregiver burden and increase the length of time for which a person with dementia can continue living at home, an outcome which may be both emotionally and financially desirable. Results from three randomized controlled trials provided no evidence of any benefit of respite care for people with dementia or for their caregivers for any outcome including rates of institutionalization and caregiver burden. However, a host of methodological problems in available trials were identified. Further methodologically sound research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.