Lifespan Respite Technical Assistance

Lifespan Respite
Technical Assistance Center
Volunteer Respite Manual:
Creating Valuable Options for Family Caregivers

Authors: Easters Seals and ARCH

Released February 2012


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Table of Contents



Program Planning and Operations

Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Orientation and Training

Volunteer Management

Volunteer Retention

Policies and Procedures

Liability and Insurance Issues

Marketing the Program to Consumers and the Community


Federal and State Resources on Volunteerism

Volunteer Training Resources

Volunteer Management Resources



This manual draws on years of experience with volunteer services of National Easter Seals and its affiliates and of many ARCH member respite programs and services. Much of the groundwork for developing the manual was laid out in the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center’s Fact Sheet Number 18: Volunteer Respite: Valuable Resources.  Topics covered include: Program planning and operations; volunteer recruitment, training and management; evaluation guidance; suggested policies and procedures; liability and insurance; and marketing. Specific training curricula are not included but suggested content for training and orientation, as well as many training resources are included.


The purpose of this step-by-step manual is to help community-based programs assess their individual needs, plan and implement volunteer respite programs, and assist state Lifespan Respite programs as they address the requirements in the Lifespan Respite Care Act to build respite capacity through volunteer training and recruitment. Interspersed throughout the document are text boxes with additional resources for reading further on that topic, highlights of National Volunteer Respite Initiatives, and examples of local volunteer respite programs. It is our hope that as state Lifespan Respite programs develop statewide systems of coordinated and accessible respite services, they will use this guide to help them directly or through their subcontracts with faith- or community-based organizations to pursue respite expansion by using volunteers in an array of respite care options for families.


From the introduction:

Increasingly, programs are turning to the use of volunteers when available and appropriate to help provide respite services, curtail costs, and improve affordability for families. Volunteers are essential to families who may not be able to afford respite, who live in geographically isolated areas with fewer resources, or who face limited access to services because of a shortage of paid providers. Additionally, volunteers are assets to organizations because they are an unpaid source of labor; with volunteers,programs can stretch limited resources to provide services to more family caregivers and care recipients.


Another reason to use volunteers is to expand the caregiver’s and care recipient’s circle of relationships. Often, the only people in a care recipient’s life are those paid to be there. Volunteers offer a unique aspect to respite, not because they are “free” but because their relationships are freely given.


However, keep in mind that volunteer respite is not free, and not every respite program has the need for or capacity to successfully organize and operate a volunteer program. Careful consideration of the resources required to successfully integrate volunteers into a respite program is key to building a sustainable program. Finding a few people willing to spend a few hours helping out will not guarantee success. Recruiting, training, supervising, and evaluating volunteers require ongoing staff time and resources.



Lifespan Respite

Technical Assistance Center

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center

4016 Oxford Street

Annandale, VA 22003

(703) 256-2084

This project is supported, in part, under a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions.  These contents, however, do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and endorsement by the Federal Government should not be assumed.


The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is a division of the Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project, Inc.; 800 Eastowne Drive, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514;



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