Respite Care: Definition, Services, Costs, & Types 2024

Respite care provides short-term relief for caregivers and families who are caring for loved ones with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Having a break from caregiving responsibilities can help renew energy and reduce burnout. This guide defines respite care and outlines the services provided, its costs, and the different types available.

Respite Care Definition

The definition of Respite care is temporary care for the elderly, disabled, or chronically ill that provides relief for the usual caregiver. It allows the primary caregiver to take a break from the demands of caregiving to focus on their own needs.

The term “respite” comes from the French word meaning “rest” or “relief.” Respite care gives the caregiver a period of rest from the stresses and physical demands of caring for a loved one. This temporary rest helps avoid burnout and improves the ability to provide care over the long term.

Respite care can take place in the patient’s home, adult day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, or respite-specific facilities. It can be provided for just a few hours, multiple days, weekends, or even weeks depending on the caregiver’s needs.

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Who is Respite Care For?

Respite care services are designed for:

  • Family caregivers: Spouses, children, siblings, or other relatives caring for an aging, chronically ill, or disabled family member. Respite provides a break from daily care tasks.
  • People with disabilities: Children and adults with disabilities may receive respite so their caregivers can take a break.
  • Individuals with chronic complex medical conditions: Those with serious ongoing conditions requiring constant care, such as dementia, ALS, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.
  • Terminally ill patients: Respite services allow caregivers of patients who are dying time to recharge.
  • Post-surgical patients: Patients who need temporary care after surgery while recovering at home.

The care receiver benefits from engaging with others in a safe environment outside the home. The caregiver benefits by getting time off to focus on self-care and renewing their energy.

Respite Care Services Provided

Respite care services are tailored to the needs of the care recipient. The level of care provided depends on their condition, abilities, and degree of independence. Services may include:

Basic Custodial Care

  • Companionship and social engagement
  • Conversation
  • Light meal prep
  • Medication reminders
  • Escorting to appointments
  • Monitoring for safety

Personal Care

  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Toileting
  • Dressing
  • Eating Assistance
  • Mobility help

Skilled Nursing Services

  • Managing medications, IVs
  • Wound care
  • Operating specialized medical equipment
  • Providing therapy


  • Transporting to and from respite facility

Social Activities

  • Games, crafts, music therapy
  • Group meals
  • Social interaction

The caregiver and care recipient should discuss desired services with the respite provider to ensure the proper level of care is provided.

Where Can You Receive Respite Care?

There are many options for where respite care can take place. Common locations include:

  • In the care recipient’s home: An in-home respite worker comes to the home to provide care.
  • Adult daycare centers: These centers provide care and social interaction during set daytime hours.
  • Respite-specific facilities: Some agencies have dedicated respite facilities to provide specialized temporary care.
  • Nursing homes: Nursing homes will accept respite patients for short stays.
  • Hospitals: Hospitals with respite programs provide care for limited periods to give at-home caregivers a rest.
  • Community centers: Some community centers offer respite programs and activities.

Choosing the right location depends on the services needed, convenience, costs, and personal preferences. In-home and adult day services allow the care recipient to stay in a familiar environment.

How Much Does Respite Care Cost?

The cost of respite care depends on the type, location of services, duration, and level of care required. Some general costs include:

  • In-home care: $15-$30/hour for a home health aide; $175-$350 for 24-hour care; live-in care approx $200-$350/day
  • Adult day centers: $65-$125 daily
  • Nursing home respite: $150-$350 daily for a semi-private room; private rooms cost more
  • Respite facilities: Around $200-$400 per day
  • Hospitals: $350+ per day for a semi-private room depending on the services needed

Many long-term care insurance policies cover some respite costs. Veterans may have respite benefits through the VA. Medicaid home and community-based waivers can also pay for respite.

Financial assistance programs like coupons, stipends, grants, or sliding-scale subsidies may be available in your state to help pay for respite.

Types of Respite Care

There are a variety of ways to structure respite care depending on the needs of the caregiver and care recipient.

Planned or Scheduled Respite

Scheduled respite is planned time off regularly. For example:

  • 4 hours every Tuesday provided by an in-home worker
  • An overnight stay once a month at a nursing facility
  • Weekends off due to an adult daycare program

Scheduling regular respite lets the caregiver plan vacations, doctor visits, social events, etc. It also helps the care recipient adjust to a routine.

Emergency or Crisis Respite

Crisis respite provides immediate, temporary care if an emergency arises. For example, if the caregiver suddenly falls ill or is injured and unable to provide care. Crisis respite care can be arranged on short notice.

In-Home Respite

In-home respite workers come to the patient’s residence to provide care and give the caregiver time off. This allows the care recipient to stay in a familiar setting. And it gives flexibility for the caregiver to run errands, visit friends, etc.

Out-of-Home Respite

Out-of-home respite means the patient receives care outside the home. This includes adult day centers, nursing facilities, hospitals, respite facilities, etc. The location depends on the services needed and how much time off the caregiver wants.

Overnight Respite

For caregivers who need extended time away, overnight respite allows one or more nights off. Overnight care may take place in the home, a facility, or an alternate family member’s home.

Long-term Respite

Long-term respite extends for an extended continuous period of 5-14 days. This allows the caregiver to take a vacation or extended break.

Combination Respite

A combination approach uses multiple types of respite. For example, weekly in-home respite and monthly overnight respite at an adult day facility. Combining gives flexibility to meet both the patient’s and caregiver’s needs.

The respite care type that works best depends on the patient’s condition, the caregiver’s situation, and the availability of services. Most families use a combination approach for maximum flexibility.

Finding Respite Care Services

There are many ways to find and arrange respite care services:

  • Home health agencies – Many licensed home care agencies provide respite services in addition to long-term care.
  • Local nonprofits – Organizations like Easterseals and United Cerebral Palsy have respite programs.
  • Adult daycare centers – These facilities can provide daily respite.
  • Area Agency on Aging – The Eldercare Locator or your local AAA can help locate respite services.
  • State respite coalitions – State coalitions coordinate respite programs and funding.
  • Churches and synagogues – Many have volunteers to provide respite.
  • Online respite directories – Sites like ARCH National Respite Network list local programs.
  • Special needs coordinated care organizations – They help arrange respite for those with disabilities.
  • Hospitals and long-term care facilities – Many facilities provide respite stays.
  • VA Aid and Attendance – Veterans may qualify for up to 30 days of respite per year.
  • Medicaid waivers – If approved, Medicaid can fund in-home respite costs.

Finding the right provider may take research. Look for licensed agencies with trained respite workers. Communicate your needs and ask questions before arranging care.

How to Pay for Respite Care

Since respite care is temporary, most medical insurance won’t cover it. But there are options to get financial help:

  • Long-term care insurance – If the policy has respite benefits, it may pay for approved days of care.
  • Veterans benefits – The VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit provides veterans and their spouses with up to 30 days of respite coverage per year.
  • Nonprofit grants – Organizations like The ARCH National Respite Network provide limited funding via grants and coupons.
  • Tax credits – IRS Tax Credits are available for qualifying respite costs.
  • Medicaid waivers – If approved by the state, Medicaid will pay for in-home respite.
  • State funding – Some states offer respite subsidies or vouchers using lottery or general funds.
  • Crowdfunding – Using GoFundMe or similar sites to request respite donations.
  • Pay privately – Self-paying is an option for those who can afford it. Rates are $15-$35/hour for home care.

Finding respite funding takes research and creativity. Contact your State Respite Coalition for local funding sources. Use a combination approach tapping all possible resources.

Respite Care Helps Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Caring for a chronically ill or disabled loved one over an extended time leads to caregiver stress and burnout. Common signs of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Health issues

Studies show more than 50% of caregivers are overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving. Respite gives families a necessary break that helps avoid burnout. Benefits include:

For the caregiver:

  • Improved mental health – lower stress and depression
  • Reduced isolation and ability to maintain social connections
  • A chance to rest and reenergize
  • Freedom to run errands, schedule appointments
  • Peace of mind during short-term emergencies
  • Improved overall wellbeing

For the care recipient:

  • Social stimulation outside the home in a safe environment
  • Cognitive boost from activities and engagement
  • Increased happiness from interactions with new people
  • Allows care to continue at home rather than permanent placement

Balancing self-care while caregiving is so difficult – but vital. Respite provides a valuable and necessary break so care can continue. It offers relief that renews your spirit and health. The benefits to caregivers, patients, and entire families are invaluable.

Key Takeaways

  • Respite care provides family caregivers temporary relief from caregiving duties whether for just hours or days. This break prevents burnout.
  • Services range from basic custodial care to extensive medical assistance with ADLs and nursing care if required.
  • Care can take place in the home, adult day centers, nursing facilities, respite-specific agencies, and even hospitals.
  • In-home hourly rates range from $15-to $30 per hour. Adult daycare averages $65-$125 daily.
  • Planned respite is scheduled regularly to give caregivers guaranteed time off. Crisis respite meets urgent, short-term needs.
  • Finding respite providers takes research – contact agencies, nonprofits, government aging agencies, and respite coalitions.
  • Respite can be paid for privately, via long-term care insurance, VA benefits, Medicaid waivers, state stipends, grants, or fundraising.
  • Respite provides renewal for family caregivers and joyful engagement for care recipients. It makes ongoing home care possible when it’s needed most.

Frequently Asked Questions About Respite Care

What is respite care?

Respite care provides temporary relief for family caregivers by having someone else care for your loved one for a brief period whether for a few hours or a few weeks. This gives the caregiver a break from the daily demands of caregiving.

When should you consider respite care?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable, or starting to withdraw socially because of caring for a loved one full-time, it’s time to consider respite. Getting regular breaks prevents burnout.

Who provides respite care?

Depending on your needs, respite care can be provided by trained home care aides, adult day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, or specialized respite facilities. Caregivers should look for licensed providers experienced in respite care.

Can I qualify for financial assistance for respite care?

Yes, there are many ways to get financial help for respite costs. Options include VA benefits, Medicaid waivers, nonprofit grants, long-term care insurance, tax credits, crowdfunding, and state-funded stipends. Each state is different, so research specific programs in your area.

When does Medicare cover respite care?

Medicare does not cover respite care. Medicare is for acute short-term care – respite provides the opposite, temporary long-term custodial care to give caregivers a break. So Medicare will not pay for respite services.

Should I consider in-home or out-of-home respite care?

It depends on your needs and the patient’s condition. In-home respite allows the patient to remain comfortable in a familiar environment. Out-of-home respite provides new social stimulation. Most families use a combination based on cost, convenience, and flexibility.

What activities do respite care services provide?

Depending on where care takes place and the abilities of the patient, common respite activities include crafts, music, art therapy, friendly visiting, group activities, games, social meals, spiritual activities, pet therapy, outings, and more. Activities aim to provide social engagement and cognitive stimulation.

How often can I use respite care services?

How often you use respite depends on your personal needs, availability of services, and budget. Some caregivers use in-home respite a few hours per week for a regular break. Others use overnight or weekend respite at a facility once or twice a month. Consistent respite is shown to provide the greatest benefits.

What is the difference between planned respite and crisis respite?

Planned or scheduled respite takes place regularly based on a set schedule. Crisis respite meets urgent short-term needs when an emergency arises such as a sudden caregiver illness or accident when someone needs to fill in immediately. Using a mix of planned and crisis respite gives families both flexibility and emergency support.


Caring for an aging, chronically ill, or disabled loved one brings profound rewards. However, the physical and emotional toll of continuous caregiving also leads to destructive burnout without regular breaks. Respite care services address this need by providing temporary relief through outside care.

Respite benefits families by allowing exhausted caregivers time to recharge and be more present when caregiving. Just as importantly, life-affirming respite gives joy and connection back to the care recipient. It makes ongoing home care possible in the most challenging cases. However, finding and funding respite can be complex.

Caregivers must research options, ask agencies the right questions, and persist in tapping all possible funding sources. With creativity and determination, families can make respite a reality. The vital difference just a temporary break provides for the health of caregivers and care recipients makes respite services an essential resource when needed most.

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