What Is Respite Care and Where Can I Find Respite Caregivers Near Me?

Nobody can function in any role 24/7 without a break. Yet, that’s what some family caregivers do. Taking time away from the immense responsibility of caring for a loved one seems like a luxury: hard to afford and nearly impossible to manage.

“Everyone deserves the dignity of aging well in the place they call home,” says Diane Ty, the Washington, D.C.-based managing director for the Milken Institute Future of Aging.

But can aging in place come at the cost of caregiver strain and burnout? Finding a way to take a brief respite is necessary for caregiver physical and mental health. Moreover, the family member receiving care benefits from having a better-rested, reinvigorated caregiver looking after them. See what short-term respite entails and how to find respite care.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is any type of short-term relief for caregivers. While that respite care definition sounds simple, respite can take various forms.

It can mean a few short hours without caregiving responsibilities and worries while a sibling steps in or an in-home caregiver takes over. Respite could involve dropping a parent or spouse off for adult day services. Respite might mean a long weekend away for caregivers during their loved one’s temporary stay at an assisted living facility.

Any successful respite involves some planning and preparation to enjoy that period of comparative freedom and downtime.

[READ: Caregivers Need Support Too]

Respite Care Types

Respite care can take place in a variety of settings, including:

Adult day care centers. Also called adult day services, these programs offer assistance and supervision for older adults during the day. Adult social day care offers respite care, meals, recreation and social activities and may include some health services. Adult day health care provides respite care and more intensive therapeutic, health and social services for older adults with serious medical conditions who otherwise might need nursing home care.

In-home caregiving. In-home respite care brings professional caregivers such as certified nursing assistants or, when needed, a visiting nurse to provide care where the older adult lives. In-home services can encompass help with preparing meals, personal hygiene, toileting and other needs, depending on the individual. This respite could encompass a few hours during the day or overnight stays.

Assisted living stay. Family caregivers can arrange short-term stays in some assisted living communities, to go on vacation or attend an out-of-town event, for instance. Medication assistance, meals, help with activities of daily living and a variety of social activities are all included.

Informal family respite. Siblings or other relatives, friends and volunteers through community networks like CaringBridge let people pitch in to give the primary caregiver a break. There are other respite care resources like churches and senior centers, says Peter Ross, the co-founder and CEO of Senior Helpers, a Baltimore-based organization that facilitates nonmedical in-home care for seniors. “They are usually volunteers, so you need to be careful about who comes into your home,” he adds.

Home health care. Ross explains that home health care provides certified nurse aides for short assignments paid by Medicare under a doctor’s order, but not much coverage is provided.

[READ Senior Home Care: Services, Costs and Tips for Aging in Place]

Respite Care Costs

Respite care can be expensive. While rates vary by type of care and location, these are average costs:

Adult day services. The average daily rate for up to eight hours in U.S. adult day care services is $95, according to the 2023 Cost of Care Survey conducted by Genworth Financial.

Assisted living facilities. The average rate for one day of assisted living community care is $176, according to the Genworth survey. However, respite care might not be offered on an occasional, short-term basis, and there may be a minimum stay requirement.

In-home respite care. The average cost for a home health aide is $33 an hour, or $207 per day, according to the aforementioned Genworth survey.

Ross says the best way to check the cost of respite care near you is to contact a home health agency in your area. A respite care provider will determine cost based on an assessment and work with you to create a respite care plan.

[READ Assisted Living Costs and How to Pay]

Who pays for respite care?

Before you feel the cost of respite care is too prohibitive, consider some of the following programs that are available to help you pay for respite care.

Medicaid. Medicaid state waivers may help you pay for respite services. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to learn more about how to access this benefit where you live.

Veteran’s Administration. As a veteran or dependent of a veteran, you may qualify to apply for benefits through the VA to pay for respite care. “A home care agency should be able to help you through this process,” Ross explains. Ty suggests looking into the Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers.

Medicare Advantage. Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer respite care or personal care services as a supplemental benefit. Contact a member services representative for your plan to learn more.

Medicare. “Finally for Medicare recipients, starting in July, if your loved one has any form of dementia, respite care will be available through the Medicare GUIDE program,” Ross says. Contact your provider or Medicare to see how you can request this $2,500 per year benefit.

Vouchers and stipends. Many states provide respite vouchers and stipends. A few of these assistance programs include the Lifespan Respite Program and local Area Agencies on Aging directed by the National Family Caregiver Support Program. To find an AAA in your community, search “area agencies on aging + your state’s name.”

Private companies. Private funding is available through grant programs administered by organizations like Hilarity for Charity, the National Organization for Rare Diseases, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and even by faith-based organizations, such as Lutheran Services in America.

How to Find Respite Care Near Me

These are good starting points for family caregivers seeking respite care and support:

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. Funded by the Administration for Community Living, ARCH offers the National Respite Locator among myriad services for family caregivers.

National Adult Day Services Association. The NADSA directory lets users find adult day services throughout the country.

Eldercare Locator and call center. The interactive tool connects caregivers and older adults to their AAA, which can direct users to local services, including respite care. You can also call 800-677-1116 to speak with an agency staff member.

Disability services. To ask about services like respite for caregivers of younger people who have a disability such as a cognitive or mobility impairment, call the Disability Information and Access Line at 888-677-1199.

Alzheimer’s Association. For caregivers of a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, these are helpful respite-related resources.

Department of Veterans Affairs. VA medical centers can give the veteran’s caregiver a break by taking over that care for a limited time, for up to 30 days in a calendar year. This respite care may be provided at the VA medical center, in a community facility or in the veteran’s home.

A geriatric care manager can be a professional ally for family caregivers, with extensive knowledge of local options. Also referred to as aging life care experts, geriatric care managers work with older adults and their families to identify needs, make a care plan and find services in the community, according to the National Institute on Aging.

When People Seek Respite

Respite care is a popular resource for caregivers associated with the National Family Caregiver Support Program, established by Congress in 2000 as part of the Older Americans Act. In 2023, Congress increased funding by $2 million compared with fiscal year 2022.

It’s clear that the need for respite care is so great because of the impact it has on families and caregivers.

“Most family caregivers don’t identify as caregivers, so oftentimes people don’t search for things like respite until they are overwhelmed and stressed,” says Sandy Markwood, the CEO of USAging, based in Washington, D.C.

She adds that “caregiving often extends beyond an episodic event into months and years. So, caregivers find that trying to continue to maintain that level of support over time becomes difficult, the families find. It’s one thing if Mom and Dad are returning from a hospital stay and they need help for a couple of weeks, or maybe a month or so. But if it’s three or four years? It’s a different situation.”

Markwood suggests looking into online communities like CaringBridge, where family members can all pitch in, for instance, when a loved one is recovering from a fall.

Respite care plays a crucial role in maintaining a caregiver’s well-being by offering vital breaks to combat burnout and alleviate stress, says Shanna Grayson, the vice president of care management at Homethrive, an Illinois-based health tech company tackling the caregiving crisis.

“These breaks provide opportunities for rest, rejuvenation and the strengthening of bonds with loved ones,” she notes.

Advantages of Respite Care

Respite offers advantages to the person receiving and giving care.

More present caregiving. “It’s having a caregiver who is refreshed,” Markwood says. “One who is able to care, and able to be there and be present.” When a caregiver has a chance to take a breather, “it’s renewing on both sides,” she adds.

Reduced caregiver burnout. With respite, family caregivers can make it to their own doctors’ appointments, go to the grocery store or watch a child’s soccer game, Markwood says. Respite means “just making sure that their loved one is safe and secure so they can go off and do things that are important in their lives, but not worrying the whole time about the care their loved one is getting,” she points out.

Change in scenery for the care recipient. In some cases, respite care might feel disruptive for the person receiving care, especially if they have dementia or a memory condition. But for others, the change of pace and sharing their story with a new caregiver is a welcome change in routine.

Respite Care Challenges

People may push back at being attended to by anyone other than their comforting family caregiver, at least at first. That reluctance can be heightened when respite involves a short stay in an assisted living facility. Challenges can include:

Difficulty trusting a new caregiver. Consider your loved one’s cognitive status and understanding when arranging respite care. They may need days or even weeks of mental preparation for the anticipated schedule and care change. For individuals that don’t have full cognitive understanding, work preemptively with the respite caregiver to ensure a smooth transition. For example, if your loved one has a specific preference in their daily routine or a snack they like to take with their medications.

Cost of care. Cost is a barrier for many individuals seeking respite care. Look into assistance programs to help with the cost. You can also compare quotes for multiple respite services before choosing.

Finding a reputable respite care program. To ensure your loved one will be receiving high-quality care, have a discussion with your anticipated care team to discuss their qualifications and licensing. It’s also important to consider the religious, personal or cultural needs of your loved one when matching them to a respite service.

Hiring in-home care may be a simpler possibility. As with most aspects of caregiving, there aren’t cut-and-dried answers or solutions.

More from U.S. News

Assisted Living Communities: Types of Rooms

Pros and Cons of Assisted Living

Nursing Home Alternatives to Consider

What Is Respite Care and Where Can I Find Respite Caregivers Near Me? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 04/11/24: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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