Background: The aim of this study was to examine the impact of residential respite care on disruptive behavior displayed by older people, particularly those with dementia.
Methods: A quasi-experimental, repeated-measures, single-group design was used. The participants were a consecutive series of 100 older people with a mean age of 81.8 years (range 66–96 years) who had been booked for a respite admission to one of several residential aged care facilities in a provincial Australian city. A diagnosis of dementia was reported for 29% of the sample. Disruptive behaviors were rated before and after the period of respite by home caregivers (N = 100) and during the period of respite by nurses (N = 25) using the Dementia Behavior Disturbance Scale (DBDS).
Results: Age, male gender and the presence of dementia were all significantly related to the frequency of reported disruptive behaviors. Residential respite care was associated with a significant reduction in the frequency of reported disruptive behaviors in older people (Wald χ2 = 28.28, p < 0.0001). However, this improvement in behavior did not persist into the post-respite period. The deteriorating behavioral trajectory that was evident prior to respite care continued following the period of respite care.
Conclusions: Residential respite care was associated with a temporary diminution in the frequency of reported disruptive behaviors in older people. This finding should be reassuring both for family carers considering placing a relative in residential respite care and for health workers considering whether to recommend such a course of action.