Family Respite Program

The Respite Program of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society provides respite care through contracted services for primary caregivers of individuals with a serious mental illness.

Respite services are provided in the Fraser Region and in Victoria at present.  This program is no longer offered in Vancouver/Richmond, due to funding cuts.

The coordinators of the respite programs have some good and creative ideas for family members on how to arrange for restful breaks from caregiving for ill relatives.

Providing family-centred respite care enables the person with serious mental illness to remain in their own home while the regular caregiver is away. The BCSS Respite Program can provide professionals who are trained and experienced in mental health services. Skills of personal care aids or a registered psychiatric nurse are matched to the needs of the care receiver.

Services are flexible to the needs of the family. Respite services may range from a few hours a day, week, or month, to a more focussed period of days or weeks.

What Does “Respite” Mean?

In its broadest sense, respitesimply means a break, or reprieve. Respite Care is defined as temporary, short-term care designed to give relief or support to a primary unpaid caregiver who has accepted responsibility for the ongoing care and supervision of another individual.

Benefits of Respite

  • Family-Centred Respite is a valuable service. It recognizes the vital role caregivers play by providing them with an opportunity to attend to their own personal needs.
  • While respite care may not meet all the needs and concerns of every caregiver, it can and does help reduce stress levels in the home.
  • Respite has been proven beneficial to both caregivers and care receivers. Families who are hesitant about sharing the burden of caregiving should be made aware of the fact that using respite services can actually improve the well being of the family unit.


All costs related to providing respite to the primary caregiver are administered by the BC Schizophrenia Society, up to fixed maximum per year per family. Funding for Family Respite Service is provided by your Regional Health Authority through Mental Health Services. Currently respite service is available for families in Agassiz/Harrison, Hope, Mission, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, White Rock, Delta, Burnaby, New Westminster, and the Tri-Cities area.

What Can Respite Services Provide?

  • Daily breaks from caregiving — through planned outings for iether family member or through home visits to the person who is ill
  • Extended scheduled breaks for the caregiver — including planned weekends away or regular vacations
  • Access to quality care if the primary caregiver suddenly becomes ill, or is in some way temporarily unable to provide care

Why Don’t More Families Use Respite Services?

  • Caregivers are often focused on the needs of their ill family member at the expense of their own needs
  • It is difficult for families to open up to strangers because of the stigma, myth, and ridicule often associated with mental illness
  • For many, mental illness is dealt with within the confines of the family unit
  • Some caregivers feel totally responsible for the well being of their ill relative. The thought, “What if something should happen while I’m away!” often prevents them from using available respite services
  • The availability of services, the cost of provisions, waiting lists, and program limitations
  • Most respite programs are aimed at the care receiver, not the caregiver

Why Should I Use Respite?

  • Without respite, some families are overwhelmed by the stress of caregiving
  • Respite can help alleviate tension that builds up in the home
  • Without the use of respite, many caregivers have no one to help share the burden of responsibility
  • Some families are never able to take a vacation because they are too worried about their ill family member
  • Respite can allow the care receiver as well as the caregiver the opportunity to feel independent again
  • Respite provides professional staff trained in mental health services
  • Respite can help families renew the energy required to care for someone who suffers from a mental illness>

How can I refer myself or others to this program?

For more information about how you can access respite services if you live in the the Fraser Region (Abbotsford, Agassiz, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Delta, Hope, Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, The Tri-Cities, White Rock) please call 1-888-888-0029  or email