To determine family physicians' perceptions of how available respite care is and how easy it is to refer chronically ill older people to it, and to examine their opinions of respite care.
Mailed survey to family physicians on the Thames Valley Family Practice Research Unit's mailing list.
London, Ont, and surrounding area.
Of the 448 surveys mailed to eligible physicians, 288 were completed and returned for a response rate of 64.3%.
Respondents' perceptions of how available respite care is and how easy it is to refer chronically ill older people to it and their opinions on the effectiveness of respite care.
More than half the respondents reported that outpatient respite care is always available, but how available depended on practice location. Inpatient respite care was reported as less available. More than half the respondents found referral to respite care difficult. Respondents were very positive about the role of respite services in long-term care and in lowering caregiver stress. Respondents' perceptions varied according to where they had attended medical school. Their perceptions of respite care's role in long-term care and in helping patients remain at home were influenced by whether they thought respite care was available.
Family physicians need education in the value of respite services for their chronically ill older patients and their families. Physicians also need information on the respite services available and strategies for accessing them. Our findings suggest a need for greater attention to regional discrepancies in availability of services.