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Respite Care

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

Many Americans provide daily assistance to elderly family members or friends so they are still able to live in their homes. This can be a physically and mentally demanding job.

Respite Care

Respite care provides relief for the caregiver. It takes some of the burden and stress away, whether it's for a few hours a day or a few days a week. Getting respite care is important for your health and for your ability to continue to provide care for your loved one.

Respite care includes a variety of services such as home-based care, skilled nursing, home health, residential programs and companionship.

Types of Respite Care
Respite care can be divided into two main types: in-home and out-of-home. In-home services can be provided by paid help trough an agency or even by a volunteer.

Care can be for several hours a day, an overnight or weeks. This allows the resident to remain in their homes where they are usually more comfortable.

Some of the types of in-home providers and services include:

  • Personal care provides who provide assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, feeding, grooming, bathing and using the bathroom.
  • Homemaker services provide meal prep, shopping and housekeeping.
  • Skilled home health care providers have specialized training for medical assistance such as medicine administration.
  • Companions provide exactly that. They get to know the resident, play games, go for walks and other forms of companionship. Companions can be paid or often times, they are volunteer members of a church or other non-profit.

Out-of-home respite care usually takes the following forms:

  • Adult Day programs are for those elderly who are no longer independent (disabled or frail). They may also be isolated and alone. An adult day care center provides services during the day such as meals, socialization, games and educational activities. These allow the caregiver the freedom to go to work during the day.
  • Residential respite care takes the form of group homes, nursing homes or other specialized facilities. These options can care for patients for 24-hour periods.

Planning your Respite Relief
Start with analyzing both your needs and those of your loved one. Make a diary for a week listing the times and things you most need help with. Do you need free time? Help with transportation? What are you loved ones requirements? Medication management? Mental stimulation? Assistance with eating, walking, dressing?

Paying for Respite Care
First, look into local volunteer organizations. Can a church or civic group provide volunteers? What about the local college? Are there students who need class credit for these types of services? How about nursing students?

Insurance usually only covers respite care if the care providers are licensed medical professionals such as nurses, dieticians or other specialists. A long-term care policy usually does pay for some services.

VA Benefits pay for up to 30 days a year for those that qualify.

SSI disability recipients may be eligible for benefits.

Medicaid does not pay directly for respite care but some states have waivers that can offset some of the costs.

State Agencies have funds that help qualified family members receive payment for respite services.

Assessing the Quality of Respite Care
When deciding on a respite care agency, consider these questions:

  • How are employees screened for the job?
  • How are employees evaluated?
  • Is there a written care plan?
  • Does the agency keep a record of the senior's medical needs and conditions?
  • How much does the care cost?
  • What's included in the care cost?
  • How do caregiver employees handle emergencies?
  • Can family members meet and interview the people who will be providing the respite care? If so, consider asking these questions:
  • Are you insured?
  • Can I see your references?
  • What special skills related to the job do you have?
  • Ask situational questions: If my Mom fell and injured her ... How would you handle this?
  • What are your experiences in providing respite care?
  • What if you are unable to come over? Do you have a back up?


Respite Care can provide family members and friends with a much-needed break from their daily duties taking care of a senior loved one. Before you start you search, decide what kind of relief you're looking for. Then look at the options in your community: professional agency, civic or church volunteer, etc.

For an in-depth look at home care, check out "Why and When to Use Home Care."

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