What is Respite Care? Tips for Caregivers

Last Updated : 25/07/20174min read

If you’re a caregiver – whether it’s for your husband, wife, Mom, Dad, or another loved one – there may be times when the stress may start to get to you. You may be able to take a break now and then. Read on to find out about respite care.

What is respite care?

Respite care is short-term care to let you rest or take time off, according to the National Institutes of Health. Respite care might help relieve your caregiver stress, and possibly even help you manage holding a paid job.
Medicare has a more specific answer to “what is respite care:” “Temporary care provided in a nursing home, hospice inpatient facility, or hospital so that a family member or friend who is the patient’s caregiver can rest or take some time off” (source: Medicare.gov).

Does Medicare cover respite care?

Medicare coverage of respite care is generally associated with hospice care. If you’re the caregiver of a hospice patient (someone who’s terminally ill), Medicare Part A may cover temporary care for your loved one in an inpatient hospice facility, hospital, or nursing home for up to five days.  Your hospice provider will need to arrange this for you and this can only be provided on an occasional basis.

You may be responsible for 5% of the Medicare-approved amount for respite care. Each time a person receives respite care, Medicare typically covers up to five days. There is no limit to the number of times that a person can receive respite care.

You might qualify for coverage through Medicaid, not just Medicare, for respite care. The Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program may cover respite care in some situations (not limited to hospice care). Coverage through the PACE program may vary among states. To find out if your state participates in the PACE program, click here.

Can I get respite care for anyone who needs continuous live-in care?

Medicare typically doesn’t pay for respite care for the caregiver unless the patient is in hospice. However, other help may be available.

  • You may want to visit the Eldercare Locator website, or call them at (800) 677-1116, Mon-Fri 9am to 8pm (EST).
  • The Access to Respite Care and Help (ARCH) National Respite Network and Resource Center can identify local respite providers.
  • Your city’s Senior Center or Area Agency on Aging might also be able to help you.

Types of respite care programs

Here a couple of different types of respite care programs.

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In-home respite care

In-home respite care is temporary care provided in the person’s home. This allows the family and patient to be comfortable and saves them from having to adjust to a new environment. Local Senior Services agencies may have a list of approved caregivers who provide in-home respite care. Home-based respite care programs might be provided through a nursing agency; to find these services, try the resources listed above. Also, senior volunteer services and private nonprofit agencies are the common providers of home-based respite care programs.

Out-of-home respite care

Out-of-home respite care programs provide the opportunity for the family or caregivers to leave the person needing care at a facility, such as an assisted living center, nursing home, or hospital, depending on the level of care needed. It is important to remember that the person requiring care will have to be transported, and special medical equipment may also have to be moved. Contact your local Senior Services and ambulatory services to find out about special transportation needs, such as a wheelchair van. Residential facilities are most common for this type of respite program. Senior day-care facilities may also be available in the area. Senior foster care homes may also be available; these are generally an individual’s home that cares for seniors and disabled persons. Hospital-based respite care is also available depending on the local hospital’s programs. Contact hospitals in your area to find out if they offer respite care, or check out the resources listed above.

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