Respite Care: Your Definitive Guide for 2022

Respite Care: Your Definitive Guide for 2022

Find support and relief for both seniors and caregivers

Respite care definition

By Arthur Bretschneider, last updated August 8, 2022

Respite care, often short-term stays in assisted living communities, is used to give the families and primary caregivers of seniors a needed break from their caregiving duties. Respite care can be the solution when an aging loved one needs more intensive rehabilitation while recovering from surgery or illness as well as giving short-term, temporary relief, mental health breaks, and balance to those providing round-the-clock senior in-home care agency services. Respite care can come to you via in-home services with visiting nurses, or in a senior living community like skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities.

Find assisted living communities near you

What services are provided with respite care?

Respite care providers offer a range of services, which can be catered to fit the medical needs of each client. Whether they need medication assistance or just supervision and companionship, respite care workers can provide the level of care needed for them. Some other examples of respite care include:

  • Medication assistance. Respite care providers can help the senior with daily care reminders to take medication.
  • Companionship and supervision. If you worry about leaving your spouse or loved one at home alone, respite care can provide them with supervision and companion services. This type of service is especially helpful for those who function well but still need someone to look after them occasionally so they don't feel neglected while their caregiver takes time off work.
  • Household tasks. In-home respite caregivers often help with simple household chores such as laundry, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.
  • Activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are self-care activities necessary for living independently, such as bathing or getting dressed. Respite care workers provide help with ADLs as a standard service for respite care.
  • Transportation needs. Most providers will take your loved one to and from doctor appointments as well as any other traveling they may need to do.
  • Meals. Respite care providers can prepare meals and make sure your loved one has eaten.
  • Social interaction. Since respite care provides one-on-one attention, your loved one will be fully taken care of without any wait.

What are the benefits of respite care?

Respite care for elderly parents can be a game-changer for both caregivers and the seniors they are caring for. It is important to remember that no two people have the same experience, so it’s a good idea to figure out what will work best in your unique situation for you or your loved one. 

The benefits of respite programs for the elderly vary depending on each person's own needs but most often include: 

  • A much-deserved break for the caregiver so they don’t end up with caregiver burnout
  • Less stress on oneself or loved one
  • More quality time together after your respite break
  • Relief from guilt about not being there all day every day which may lead to burnout over long periods
  • A flexible option for senior care
  • Freedom from feeling tied down by responsibilities in your own home when you need some “me-time"

Types of respite care

There are many types of respite care services for elderly people. They are meant to be a short-term solution for both the caregiver and senior.

Temporary stays at senior living  

Short-term stays at a senior care facility can be a great option when caregivers need to travel out of town. Seniors are given access to the same amenities as full-time residents such as meals, social activities, and transportation. Temporary stays are also a great way to give seniors a preview of senior living and are also used by many seniors to try an assisted living community before moving in long-term.

Respite care at home

Respite care at home is a relief for families who are home-bound with elderly or sick loved ones. Providers can come to the house, acting as companions and ensuring that no harm comes to your loved ones while you're away. Home health aides may be able to do more, like help bathe, groom, fix meals, do laundry, and clean. 

Short-term stays in assisted living

Approximately 60% of assisted living communities offer short-term stays. Many times, you can find communities willing to take your elderly loved one for a weekend or even a week. This comes without further obligation to sign on for other services. You would pay for only the day, week, or weekend of care needed in a fully furnished room.

In addition, your elderly loved one would be able to participate in social gatherings, meals, and special events that may be going on during their stay. That may be a great emotional health boost and provide new social connections for them, as well.

Short-term home care

Hiring a home care agency is another way to get respite care. Some agencies have four-hour per day minimums. However, it is becoming more common for agencies to offer services with no hourly minimum. 

In-home respite caregivers provide a great solution for regularly scheduled breaks for primary caregivers.

If your loved one requires medical attention and medical monitoring, skilled nursing care is also available through in-home respite care on a short-term regular basis.

Adult day care services programs

Attending an adult daycare program provides the care recipient with social time and activities as well as a break for the caregiver. These programs are designed for seniors who can no longer manage life independently or feel lonely. Research on adult day care centers programs for older adults with dementia has found improvements in the health and well-being of both the caregiver and care recipient. Most participants attend programs for full days and about half attend five days a week. There are also options to attend for a few hours each day. Adult day centers offer several programs to promote socialization and well-being.

Respite care facilities

You may think of assisted living facilities as apartment complexes for seniors who can’t live on their own anymore. But some offer short-term stays for respite care, which is also called residential respite care, or a few weeks, in the event that you need to take a trip and your loved one needs someone else to be there with them at all times.

Short-term assisted living allows you to enjoy time away from home without worrying about leaving elderly family members alone. It can also help if your loved one needs more care than you can easily manage at home as they recover from injury or illness.  

Read more:  A Story About an Assisted Living Alternative

How much does respite care cost?

Respite care, or short-term stays in assisted living facilities, typically costs between $150 and $300 per day. Exact pricing depends on the location, level of care needed, type of agency, and how long you need it. Most assisted living communities require a minimum stay of 14 days, however, some will consider shorter periods as well.

How to pay for respite care

According to the latest Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average hourly cost of a home health aide is $24/hr. The national median daily rate for adult health care is $74 and an assisted living facility is $141. Here are a few examples of how to pay for respite care:

  • Most respite care is private pay. Seniors with long-term care insurance plans may have respite care benefits.
  • Medicare only covers respite care under the hospice care benefits.
  • Medicaid doesn’t directly cover respite care but some states can use local funding to help cover the costs.
  • Many local nonprofits have respite care grants offered to family caregivers. These grants are usually around $1000.
  • Specific organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association may provide funding for respite care.
  • Social Security Insurance (SSI) will cover some care for qualified individuals.
  • Veterans Administration will cover inpatient respite care in a Veterans hospital up to 30 days for qualified Veterans.

How to find a respite care provider

If you visit your local department on aging you will find several support programs, including the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP). Many nonprofit organizations offer respite services for fees including in-home assistance, or adult day services. Many volunteer services are also available in many communities. 

Nothing is more important than taking care of both yourself and the one you love. Don't wait until your health fails or you find yourself overwhelmed with exhaustion to realize that perhaps it's time for a break, respite services are out there as well as support groups where caregivers can relate on difficult days. When in need, reach out.

Eldercare Locator

Connects seniors who are  60+ and their caregivers with the local Area Agency on Aging’s Family Caregiver Support Program, which provides respite assistance, support groups, and other services for caregivers. 800-677-1116 (toll-free)

National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA)

NADSA is a membership organization with a directory of adult day services across the country.

ARCH National Respite Network

The ARCH National Respite Network is a service to help caregivers and professionals locate respite services in their community.

Find assisted living communities near you

Arthur Bretschneider is a Co-founder and CEO of Seniorly and a third-generation senior housing operator with 20 years experience

Learn more about Arthur and our other authors' qualifications

Seniorly author bios and publishing qualificationsAll articles written by Arthur