Development of a respite care program for caregivers of pediatric oncology patients and their siblings

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. Mar-Apr 2013;30(2):109-14. doi: 10.1177/1043454212473652. Epub 2013 Jan 28.


Children with chronic health care needs, including those with cancer, require complex care under direct caregiver supervision. This intensive care management may result in increased stress and psychological distress for the caregiver and family. Respite care services are needed in providing alleviation of caregiver stress among families of children with complex health care needs. This report describes the feasibility of a pilot hospital-based respite care program for caregivers of pediatric oncology patients and their siblings and development of a permanent, expanded service to include both inpatient and outpatient units under the supervision of hospital volunteer services. During the feasibility pilot, 39 respite care requests were made by caregivers for care of patients, with 67% of these requests for care of infants and toddlers. The respite care providers were hospital volunteers. Reasons for the caregiver respite care request included a need to leave the hospital for running an errand, eating a meal, taking a mental break, or talking with the medical team. At the completion of the pilot, caregivers and staff were surveyed and expressed a strong desire for continuation of the service. The success of the pilot led to the implementation of a formal respite care program, Helping Hands, which provides services 7 days a week for inpatients, outpatients, and their siblings. Although this respite care service is specific to children with cancer, the program model is feasible within most pediatric care facilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hospital Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Respite Care / organization & administration*
  • Siblings / psychology*