All About Respite Care

What is Respite Care?

Respite care is the temporary care of a dependent older adult or child that is designed to provide relief for the caretaker burden. It can be in an institutional or home setting, and the caretakers can vary from paid professionals to friends and family. According to the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006, respite care provides temporary relief to the families that provide care to special needs children or adults.

Respite Care Guidelines

The National Respite Guidelines designed for use by respite provider programs are not intended to be standards for licensing but rather be guidelines for quality care. These guiding principles address quality indicators applicable to all respite models and services. Caretakers seeking information on quality respite care would do well to review the guidelines for the best-informed decision on care for special needs individuals through their lifespan. The following sources offer more information.

Who Needs Respite Care?

Caring for a special needs child, disabled person, or elderly can be emotionally and physically draining to the caregiver. There is no time off, or lunch breaks when caring for a loved one at home. Not only is there no time for dinner out with a spouse, but there is also frequently little time to do the everyday tasks of living such as grocery shopping or going to the bank. Any caregiver who is experiencing stress or inability to find balance in their own lives in addition to providing excellent care for their loved ones is a candidate for respite consideration.

Respite Care in Hospice

Respite care in hospice is available for a single, 5-day session each billing period. Hospice respite care is provided only at Medicare-certified hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that provide around the clock specialized nursing care. Respite care is not offered in assisted living facilities or at the patient’s home.

Medicare covers hospice respite care up to 95 percent. Facilities must meet CMS federal requirements.

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See pricing and availability for assisted living and senior care facilities by entering your zip code and requesting a no-obligation consultation.

What are my Choices for Respite Care?

The first decision to make is the decision to seek respite, and all caregivers should be encouraged to seek help sooner than later in the caretaking experience. Caretakers then need to decide what kind of care is required. There are many options, and these can be combined.

Most often respite care is a combination of several of the above options.

  • In-home care
  • Adult Day Care
  • Temporary Stays at Senior Living
  • Friends and Family
  • A combination of resources
  • Overnight Care
  • Personal Care

Who Can I Talk to About Options and How Do I Find Respite Care?

Friends and family should be encouraged to contribute and actively asked to participate in addition to hiring special needs caregivers or aides to assist at home. Caregivers can seek information on volunteer group or faith agencies that may provide assistance as well as looking into local senior citizen’s centers, daycare options, or other facilities. A geriatric care manager or social worker can help with determining available funding and provides agencies with licensed or referenced caregivers. helps caretakers find local respite and crisis services in their areas.

  • Adult Day Care
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Geriatric Care Managers
  • County Aging Services
  • Volunteer Agencies
  • Hospital Social Workers
  • Senior Centers
  • Hospital Patient Advocates
  • Friends and Family

Who Pays for Respite Care?

Respite funding isn’t always readily available, but there are steps to locating financing. Medicare provides funding for 5-day hospice caretaker relief per billing cycle, but the search for funding is more challenging for at-home or assisted living facilities.

  • Call 2-1-1 and ask for references for respite and respite funding.
  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging and request
  • Investigate state funding programs such as 1915 c Home and Community Based Waiver for in-home and community-based

Do Medicare and Medicaid Cover Respite Care?

Medicare does not offer coverage for respite care but provides coverage for hospice relief in approved institutions. Medicaid possibly will cover part of the cost of respite. Social Security benefits can be helpful in some situations. The following link offers tips and information on paying for respite care with Medicaid benefits.

Government Resources and Non-Profit Respite Care Organizations

The caregiver seeking additional information should contact their local city, county, and state organizations for guidance. The local Area Agency on Aging is an excellent place to start.

Start with the Decision to Ask for Help

The burden of caregiving can impact a caregiver in many ways, and the decision to seek respite should be made early in the caretaking experience. Full-time caretakers experience a wide range of stress in areas such as financial, physical, emotional, and time management. Caretakers should be encouraged and supported to do less in some areas rather than more to promote a sense of well-being and satisfaction and diminish feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed. The particular respite needs depend on the caretaking situation. Needs differ but can include the need for education, support, skill-training, counseling, or time away to find life balance. Caretakers should be encouraged and supported in their quest for respite care as it demonstrates maturity to seek balance in their overall lives. Both the caretaker and individual benefit from relief of caretaker burden.

Kelli Wilson, RN
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