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What is Respite Care and How Much Does It Cost

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Top Takeaways

  1. Respite care is the practice of hiring someone to temporarily take over caregiving responsibilities to allow the caregiver a break
  2. The 3 main options for respite care vary in location (at-home vs. out-of-home) and level of care  
  3. The various levels of care range from companionship to errands to home health assistance 
  4. Although Respite care is often paid for out of pocket,  Some state Medicaid programs offer waivers or vouchers that cover respite care as part of the Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS) program
  5. Visit the ARCH National Respite Locator Service to find FREE respite care options in your area.


As any full-time caretaker knows, the demands of caretaking can leave little time for anything else. Although scheduling time for self-care is important for your own health and well-being, most caretakers simply lack the daily support necessary to take time for themselves. If that sounds familiar to you, respite care may be exactly what you need.


What Is Respite Care?

The word “respite” is defined as a period of rest or relief. Thus, respite care is the practice of hiring someone to temporarily take over caregiving responsibilities to allow the caregiver time away from the person being cared for. 

Respite care may last for days, weeks, or even just a few hours. Caretakers can use this time however they wish: to take a vacation, spend time with other family members or friends, catch up on errands, or simply rest and recharge.


A Variety of Options For Respite Care

  1. At-Home Respite Care: Of the various types of respite care, the most widely known is at-home respite, in which an aide assists your loved one in their home. This is the least disruptive form of respite care, as it allows the person to stay in familiar surroundings and keep their usual daily routines. 

  2. Adult Day-Care: Another form of respite care is adult daycare, also known as out-of-home respite care. As the name implies, your loved one is dropped off at a designated care center and attended to by staff throughout the day. Along with giving the caretaker a much-needed break, daycare programs allow your loved one to socialize with others and participate in group activities.

  3. Residential / Skilled Nursing Respite Programs: For individuals with more advanced medical needs, there are residential or skilled nursing respite programs. Because these programs provide overnight care, they tend to be used for longer-term respite care, such as days or weeks. Many long-term care facilities have rooms that are designed for short-term respite stays.


Different Levels of Respite Care

Along with location options, respite care services also vary based on the level of care your loved one needs. 

  1. Companion Care: Companion care provides individuals with supervision and companionship and may be used as part of a regular daily or weekly care routine, including driving the person to appointments. This level of care is most suitable for someone who is able to perform daily living activities without assistance.

  2. Homemaker Care: This is much like companion care, but it branches out to include meal preparation, grocery shopping, light housekeeping, and laundry. As with companion care, homemaker care includes transportation, but does not involve physical assistance, including hands-on personal care.

  3. Home Health Aide Care: The highest level of respite care is provided by home health aides. These trained professionals are certified and able to provide physical assistance to your loved one, including bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding, and help with medications. 


Paying for Respite Care 

  1. Typical Cost of Respite Care

    How much you will pay for respite care depends primarily on:

    1. How long care is needed 
    2. The level of care the individual requires.

    If you are paying out of pocket, here are some cost estimates for various types of respite care: 

    • The national average cost for companion care or homemaker services is $18 per hour or $144 for an eight-hour day;
    • Adult daycare has a national average cost of $74 per day;
    • Home health care costs an average of $150 per day;
    • The average cost of a semi-private room in a long-term care facility is $255 per day, while a private room averages $290 per day.

  2. How to Cover Costs

    According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), respite care services charge by the hour or by the number of days or weeks that services are provided. 

    • Respite care is often paid for out of pocket, as most insurance plans do not cover the costs. 
    • Medicare will cover most of the cost of up to five days in a row of respite care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, but only for a person receiving hospice care
    • Some state Medicaid programs offer waivers or vouchers that cover respite care as part of the Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS) program. If you are a caregiver for someone on Medicaid, visit the Medicaid.gov website and use the pull-down menu to check what your state covers.



Free Respite Care Options

  1. Local Organizations: In some areas, free respite care may be available through local volunteer organizations, or places of worship. Typically, such care is restricted to companion/homemaker services. 

  2. Friends and Family: Remember that friends and family members are often willing to step in to allow you time off to recharge. Many caretakers shy away from asking others for help because they assume people already know about their needs and are either unable or unwilling to help – but that is often not the case. Unless friends or family have been in a caretaker role themselves, they may have no idea how consuming the job is or how important respite care is to prevent burnout.


TIP: If you’re uncomfortable asking someone to help you, consider sending a group message to those closest to you. Be open and honest about your needs, and ask if anyone is willing to help you. Caregivers are often pleasantly surprised when, in response to their request, they get more than one offer. If you experience that, you may be able to set up a rotating schedule of regular respite time … you time.


Where to Find Respite Care

Visit the ARCH National Respite Locator Service to find respite care options in your area. If you are in a crisis situation and need respite care immediately, call 2-1-1 and ask about available resources (2-1-1 can be reached 24 hours a day).

Trina Eaton

Trina Eaton is experienced in healthcare tech, having nearly a decade of experience working with physicians, pharma, and payers.

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