Respite Care: An Overview​

Caregiving can be overwhelming at times. That’s why taking a break is essential for recharging your batteries. Respite care (also called short break care) is a way for caregivers to get temporary care for their loved ones. Getting this “me time” of respite care can renew the caregiving relationship and prevent the negative effects of burnout or frustration. 

Let’s give a recap of this type of care including what it is, why it’s important and how to pay for it. 

What is respite care?

This care is most commonly provided for caregivers with family members who are ill, aging or disabled. It also applies to loved ones with dementia. It’s considered temporary care, though it can be provided occasionally or scheduled on a regular basis. Sometimes emergency care may be needed under special circumstances.  

Most often this care is initiated by the caregiver in order to get a much-need break from the stresses of caregiving. The degree of care varies widely, which is why the experience of this care isn’t uniform. 

What types of respite care are available?

Respite care comes in two general types, in-home and out-of-home. As the names suggest, these two types provide distinct experiences for the care receiver. 

In-home care

In-home care involves a care provider coming into your home. The idea is to maintain the care receiver’s level of comfort, including the family routine, familiar environments and logistics such as meals and medication. 

Who provides in-home care? That depends. In-home care can be provided by friends or family, or trained caregivers from homecare agencies. 

Out-of-home care

Out-of-home care can take different forms. Typically, it’s provided at community centers or residential facilities. Some common out-of-home care includes:

  • Adult daycare centers 
  • Care home or health center 
  • Overnight residential programs (i.e. nursing homes)
  • Respite holidays
  • Caregiver retreats 
  • Respite swaps

As you can see, out-of-home care has a wide range of experiences. Some care may be weekly, such as adult daycare. Others, such as respite holidays, are scheduled for an annual holiday by the caregiver. Caregivers may also need overnight care at a residential or nursing home when they face pressing needs, for example, illness or job-related stresses. 

What are the benefits of respite care?

Respite care has a positive impact on both the caregiver and the care receiver. While it is most often focused on the caregiver, it’s also a good idea for the long-term care of the care receiver. Here are a few benefits overall:


  • Nourish the caregiver relationship with renewed energy and appreciation.
  • Prevent caregiver burnout and reduce the likelihood of neglect or abuse.
  • Support the caregiver’s physical and emotional health.
  • Learn new caregiving practices from your care provider.
  • Get peace of mind that a loved one is in good hands.

Care receiver:

  • Create multiple relationships beyond the primary caregiver. 
  • Find new hobbies and interests within care programming. 
  • Connect with friends within daycare or residential homes. 
  • Get a fresh experience to renew the daily routine. 

Who is a good candidate for respite care?

In reality, this type of care is a good idea for all caregivers. However, it’s especially important for those who are feeling isolated, frustrated or otherwise exhausted. It can be a great boost for the caregiver to return to normal with new energy. Ultimately, using this care on a regular basis can enrich the giver-receiver relationship in the long term.

How does respite care compare to adult daycare?

Adult daycare is just one type of respite care. Adult daycare is a care program for adults during business hours, so that caregivers can work or relax. It’s great for enriching a loved one’s social life while getting some basic custodial care. 

Overall, this care may take different forms including in-house care, overnight residential programs, or respite holiday care. The idea is to offload the daily duties of caregiving to another provider, so that the caregiver can get a well-deserved break. It’s the general term for care provided by somebody other than the primary caregiver. 

What is the experience of respite care like?

Because of the diverse nature of respite care, experiences vary. It’s clear that this type of care can renew caregiver energy across the board. However, care receivers can also enjoy this type of care. In particular out-of-home care such as adult daycare or overnight residential care can be an opportunity to make new friends, find new hobbies and get fresh air outside of the home. Caregivers may be surprised by the mutual benefit of this type, as well as the enhanced giver-receiver relationship afterward.

Should I be worried about COVID and respite care?

These days, it’s important to look into COVID protocols for all types of care. This is especially true of out-of-home programs because of the possibility of infection. Be sure to talk to your care providers to find out what they’re doing to keep your loved one safe during care. Depending on the situation, out-of-home care may require facemasks, social distancing and other daily protocols to reduce infection.

How much does respite care cost?  

Respite care costs will depend on the chosen providers. To give a general idea, a home care aide charges around $20/hour for in-home care. Other out-of-home options, such as adult daycare can average at $64/day. Of course, these costs can increase with overnight care options or longer-term care. 

How can I pay for respite care? 

Unfortunately, not many insurance plans cover respite care costs. The reason is because it’s not considered “medically necessary care.” Depending on your loved one’s medical situation – for example, he/she requires long-term nursing care – you may be able to get some coverage  

  • Medicare: Covers up to 5 days of care in a hospital or nursing home for hospice care.
  • Medicaid: May cover some care if the receiver requires long-term nursing care, as certified by a doctor. 
  • Private insurance: Care not typically covered. You should check with your insurance provider to have a better sense of whether it is covered. 

How else can I pay for respite care?

You may be able to pay for respite care through your long-term care insurance. Some other alternatives to pay for this care include:

  • Long-term care insurance
  • Life-insurance policy
  • Employer-provided assistance
  • Veterans benefits

To find out more about your eligibility and coverage, contact your insurance providers. It may be covered by these alternatives. 

Why should I choose respite care?

Respite care is an excellent option for caregivers who could use a one-time break from their caregiving duties. It may also be right for caregivers who want regular care, such as adult daycare, in order to find a better caregiving balance. 

It can be difficult for caregivers to get over the initial guilt of this care. In the end, this care can have a positive impact on the giver-receiver relationship and be mutually beneficial for both. 

How can I find the right respite care?

Finding the right respite care can be tricky. To get started, check out My Caring Plan’s senior living search. You’ll find plenty of care options in your area, with reviews to help you sort through what may be a good fit. 

You might also consider different care options depending on your needs. Are you looking for care during a holiday? Or more or a longer-term care option? Make sure you consider the range of options available. You should also visit the care facilities or meet the in-house care agency in order to get a sense of their care style and practices. 


  1. Eldercare Locator, Administration on Aging, eldercare.acl.gov
  2. Respite Care, HelpGuide, www.helpguide.org
  3. Respite Care, Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org

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