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Caregiving can be demanding. It can require a lot of time and energy; and, unless you find a way to get a break from it now and then, you will burn out. That is why respite care is so important. Primary caregivers can use respite care to receive a much-needed break from caregiving responsibilities. Respite care can be anything from a few hours to a few days or even weeks. It can be planned well in advance, or it can be used to assist you during a crisis situation. It gives you a chance to get away and relax, to enjoy friends, to regroup, to run errands, to take care of other responsibilities and to take care of yourself. Respite care can be provided in the home, at an adult day care center or in a senior care community.

You have several choices when it comes to respite care, some which may or may not be accessible to you depending upon your location and the services available in your area. These include:

  • Bringing a caregiver into your home to provide one-on-one care
  • Using an adult day care or day stay program
  • Utilizing a respite program in a senior care community

Let’s briefly look at each of these.

When bringing a caregiver into your home, you can use a caregiving agency to provide the caregiving services required, use an agency such as Eldercare Locator to find a caregiver, run an ad in the newspaper to find a caregiver or enlist the help of family and friends. This type of care could be arranged to take place during a few hours one day or for multiple days or even weeks. It could be for just one occasion or arrangements could be made for care to be provided on an ongoing basis, from a few hours to whole days each week.

Adult day care or day stay programs provide a break to caregivers during the day only (with the care recipient returning home late afternoon or evening each day), and generally only five days a week during the normal work week. These programs provide social activities, meals, health services and therapeutic services. Locations are generally community- or facility-based. Adult day care can be used from one to five days a week, with savings often offered for those who regularly use the services for the full week. Transportation to and from the care location may be available.

Respite programs in a senior care community can be anywhere from a few hours on a given day to a month-long stay. Longer stays are often used as a trial run to see how well the older adult adapts to life within the community.

Average Respite Care Cost

Because the term “respite care” encompasses several different types of services, it’s necessary to look at those services specifically to determine how much they cost on average. Providers, length of time,and whether the service is in-home are all major factors, but it’s important to note that costs vary across the country and even within the same state or city.

Still, we can look to data to tell us what the average family can expect when it comes to respite care to provide a break for caregivers.

Daily Respite Care Cost

Short-term, on-demand services like adult day health care are the most affordable, costing a national average of $74 per day, according to Genworth’s cost of care data.1 Community day care costs are highest in Maine ($160 per day) and lowest in Alabama ($30 per day).

Generally, assisted-living stays are the next most affordable, though the costs may vary when the services are respite-related. Many facilities charge additional fees for temporary visits to assisted-living facilities. Still, these types of facilities average $141 per day, or nearly double an adult day care situation. Costs range from a high in Delaware ($220) to a low in Missouri ($99).

In-home care costs are the most expensive of the most common respite care options, though they are tied most closely to the number of hours of service being provided. Eight- to 10-hour workdays for service providers obviously will cost more money for families than just a few hours. Still, that said, homemaker services cost an average of $147 per day, while home health care is slightly more expensive, $150 per day.

Individuals who require more extensive medical attention from their caregiver may consider short-term stays in nursing home facilities, though, again, additional fees would likely apply, as these are meant to be long-term care options. A semi-private nursing home room costs about $255 per day, while a private room runs $290.

Monthly Respite Care Cost

Monthly respite care costs can be calculated by multiplying the number of days in the month against the daily cost of care figure, but it’s important to note that respite care is not meant to provide long-term caregiving services. By its nature, respite care tends to run a few hours or days at a time.

What that means is that for many older adults, providing a break for their caregivers could mean they need to make arrangements for one or two days per week. For a family caregiver, bringing in homemaking services could ease their burden and cost the family less than $600 per month, for example.

That said, on a full month’s basis, meaning 30 days, homemaker services average $4,481, home healthcare costs $4,576, adult day care averages $1,603, assisted living costs $4,300, and a nursing home stay will cost at least $7,756.

Annual Respite Care Cost

For a family that needs to rely on respite care only occasionally, the costs may be surprisingly low. Bringing in homemaking services and giving a family or friend caregiver three days off per week would cost, on average, just over $19,000.

It may seem ridiculous to say that $19,000 per year is affordable, but consider the alternative, which is permanent residence in assisted living or nursing home facilities. Those costs begin at an annual rate of $51,600 and run to nearly $106,000 for a private nursing home room.

And these costs are only going up from this point. Most types of senior care have become more expensive on average in the U.S. since 2019, with assisted living rising the most, just over six percent. But by 2030, a yearly nursing home stay in a private room is projected to cost $142,254, while assisted living will be near $70,000 per year.

Consider these costs as you make a care plan for your family, and remember that it’s crucial to do research into local providers. Even the state-level costs we’ve discussed vary from city to city.

How to Pay for Respite Care Costs

Respite care is usually charged by the hour or by the number of days services are provided. The costs are typically not covered by insurance plans; although, some long-term care insurance plans may cover some or all of the costs. The funds to cover the cost of most respite care will come from personal savings.

Does Medicare Cover Respite Care Costs?

Medicare coverage for respite care is associated with hospice care; therefore, an individual must meet requirements for Medicare-covered hospice care to receive respite care. For those under hospice care, Medicare Part A may cover temporary respite care (you may be responsible for five percent of the Medicare-approved inpatient respite care cost) in an approved facility for up to five days on an occasional basis. There is no limit to the number of times this service may be used.

Does Medicaid Cover Respite Care Costs?

Because Medicaid provides each state considerable latitude when designing and implementing their coverage options, each state will administer the program differently.

For those that qualify, the Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program may cover the cost of respite care. Unlike, Medicare, PACE is not limited to hospice care scenarios. To see if your state participates in the PACE program, click here.

Eligible recipients should also investigate receiving respite care through waivers under Medicaid’s Home and Community-Based Care Services (HCBS) waiver program.

Additional Ways to Pay for Respite Care Costs

The following agencies may be able to provide funding or help you find funding to pay for respite care.

  • ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center has a created a compilation of state funding information for caregivers.
  • 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that helps people locate the local resources and funding they need. In times of crisis, when respite care is needed immediately, they may be able to help since they can be contacted 24/7.
  • By combining the efforts of the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) helps to streamline access to care options, including respite care.
  • Some states may run voucher programs to pay for respite care providing a set amount of money each quarter. Do an internet search on “respite voucher programs in (your state)” to find the programs that are available to you. Note that vouchers must be applied for every quarter and are often on a first-come, first-served basis. Receiving vouchers may mean that you can’t qualify for other programs to receive funding.

You may be able to take advantage of several funding sources, but it will take some effort to determine what you qualify for.  Other sources may include long-term care insurance, veterans’ benefits and tax credits. Caregiver support groups may also be able to point you in the direction of local funding sources.

If after applying for a government-funded program, your application is denied, you may want to consider appealing the decision. But the appeal must be made quickly – within ten days of receipt of the denial letter.

Are Respite Care Costs Tax Deductible?

Only the cost of actual medical care in a facility is tax deductible as a medical expense, not the cost of meals and lodging. Check the IRS Publication 502 to determine what is and is not deductible.

Where to Find Respite Care

Finding respite care does not have to be difficult. Finding the right respite care provider for your situation may take a little trial and effort on your part, however, so keep trying until you find what works for you. Caregiver agencies, such as Home Instead and Visiting Angels, abound. These are national agencies, but there are also many smaller agencies located in cities and towns across the country. If you choose to use an agency, you may have to try several until you find the right one for you.

Begin by using our directory which provides details on more than 75,000 senior care options, including respite care in your area. Use the search function to find the option that best meets your needs and criteria.

If you are unable to locate what you need in our extensive directory, you can turn to the following agencies which can also assist you as you search for the right respite care provider for your situation.

  • ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center has a national service locator to provide assistance in locating services in your community.
  • Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that helps locate services related to eldercare including respite care.
  • The Area Agency on Aging can help locate eldercare services and aging resources in your area.
  • The Senior Companions organization matches volunteers (age 55+) with seniors who need assistance.
  • Interfaith Caregivers, a United Way, faith-based organization, provides respite care in many communities.
  • With Elder Helpers, prescreened volunteers provide services free of charge.
  • Insurance companies and health care providers can often provide recommendations for respite care providers in your area.

Other Resources for Respite Care

Other resources concerning respite care that you may find helpful include:

  • The Well Spouse Association is a membership organization that provides peer support and education concerning the special challenges and unique issues “well” spouses face every day.
Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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  1. Genworth. (2021). Cost of Care Survey.