Caregivers Need to Take a Break

Nearly 44 million U.S. adults are family caregivers, but the vast majority of them aren’t receiving any kind of respite care. That's a mistake.

(Image credit: 2010 Getty Images)

For two years starting in 2014, Gerald Johnson drove 110 miles round-trip, twice a week, to take his wife, Nadine, from their home in Auburn, Ala., to Montgomery. Nadine, 77, has Alzheimer’s disease, and after plenty of searching, Johnson found a respite-care program in Montgomery that greatly improved the quality of life for both of them. Nadine spent four hours each visit with volunteers who enthusiastically engaged with her and other patients with dementia, learning about their backgrounds, talking, singing and sharing meals, while Johnson got a much-needed break from his caregiving routine.

Johnson, a retired Auburn University political science professor, was so impressed with Nadine’s progress at the program that he began volunteering there, instead of going to lunch or doing errands. He also helped start a similar, faith-based volunteer respite effort in Auburn in 2016. “Respite has been a blessing beyond measure, in terms of contributing first to Nadine, and then to me as a care partner,” says Johnson, age 78.

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Mary Kane
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Retirement Report
Mary Kane is a financial writer and editor who has specialized in covering fringe financial services, such as payday loans and prepaid debit cards. She has written or edited for Reuters, the Washington Post,, MSNBC, Scripps Media Center, and more. She also was an Alicia Patterson Fellow, focusing on consumer finance and financial literacy, and a national correspondent for Newhouse Newspapers in Washington, DC. She covered the subprime mortgage crisis for the pathbreaking online site The Washington Independent, and later served as its editor. She is a two-time winner of the Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards sponsored by the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. She also is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches a course on journalism and publishing in the digital age. She came to Kiplinger in March 2017.