Respite is often the most frequently requested family support service. However, according to the ARCH/ACL Expert Panel on Respite Research, which will be issuing respite research recommendations this summer, high quality research on respite outcomes for the family caregiver, the care recipient and the family as a whole, including cost benefits, is limited and often fraught with methodological problems. More and better research is needed on the cost benefits across a variety of indicators related to not only delayed or avoided out-of-home placements, but on emergency room use and hospitalizations of both the caregiver and care recipient, reductions in maltreatment of dependent persons, caregiver employment and effects on family income, and improved employee productivity of caregivers. But cost benefits alone will not tell the whole story. Research is also needed on the specific role respite plays as part of a comprehensive approach to family support as well as which components of respite are most important (location/setting, dose, quality and activities for the care recipient). Also important for investigation are the differences between formal and informal respite on positive outcomes, the importance of consumer direction in respite access, what are the best strategies to overcoming well documented barriers to accessing respite, the importance of the qualifications and training of the respite providers, and are outcomes affected by what the caregiver does with their respite time or by how meaningful was the time spent away from caregiving responsibilities. We urge the training center to take a serious look at the research agenda that will emerge from the Expert Panel.
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