Use of respite care and coping strategies among Irish families of children with intellectual disabilities1

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The study aimed to identify patterns of respite use and coping strategies among family caregivers in a region of Ireland. Firstly, we asked what child and family characteristics were associated with use of respite care. Secondly, we explored coping strategies reported by family carers. The study was undertaken with a view to informing respite service provision and redressing a gap in the literature on family caregiving. Findings differed from former research by suggesting that the likelihood of families using respite care was not significantly related to presence of challenging behaviours or level of support required by children. Additionally, likelihood of using respite care was not significantly related to family size and social support. Female carers tended to use more ‘problem solving’ strategies than males. Male carers tended to use more ‘managing meaning’ coping strategies than females, although some strategies were shared across genders. The need for carers to have confirmation of high standards of care and the importance of supporting male carers was discussed. Study limitations and implications for service provision and research were explored.

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