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” doesn’t just mean one thing, families need to investigate specific going rates in their cities based on the services that are needed. Specific providers and agencies may charge different rates, and not all families have the same respite care needs.
For example, some families may need help only with some household chores and tasks that loved ones don’t have time to provide, while others may need to consider skilled nursing care for older adults who have serious medical conditions.
That said, while every family’s situation is unique, we can look to national data to understand the general shape of what to expect.
Daily Respite Care Cost
Short-term services like adult day health care, which provide social activities, peer support, and recreation, are the most affordable, and these services usually are available on-demand. That means families can use them as needed rather than signing up for a monthly or annual service.
The median cost for adult day health care is $80, which would typically include one workday, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care data. Costs are highest in Maine ($165 per day) and lowest in Alabama ($31 per day).
Assisted living facilities are the next most affordable (for the average person, depending on their medical and physical needs), though costs may vary when the services are related to respite care. Certain facilities may charge extra for temporary assisted living visits, or they may offer discounts for agreeing to a longer stay.
Still, understanding these costs can help families decide if respite care is an option through an assisted living facility. The average daily cost for an assisted living facility in the U.S. is $152, which is up only slightly from 2021 ($148). Again, costs for these facilities range quite a bit from state-to-state, from a low of $103 in Missouri to a high of $230 in Delaware.
Depending on the individual’s needs, home health care tends to be the most expensive respite care option, but families that can get creative may be able to make the most of this paid help.
In-home care is a broad category that includes homemaker services like shopping and laundry as well as personal care services and even some medical care. Costs for any type of in-home care depends on the needs of the individual and the number of hours they require care per day or week.
This also makes in-home care a flexible option for families, as they can choose to hire professionals only for those tasks for which they cannot find the time or for which hired help might be able to do it more efficiently.
Generally, home care aides make less than home health aides, though in many states, their hourly wages are about equal. Taking both into account, for the average U.S. family, in-home respite care costs about $26 per hour, or about $260 for 10 hours of care in a week.
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 about $1,000 per month.
That said, on a full month’s basis, covering only work days, homemaker services average $4,486, home healthcare costs $4,590, adult day care averages $1,914, and assisted living costs $4,655.
Annual Respite Care Cost
Based on this analysis, for families that need respite care only occasionally, the costs may be surprisingly affordable. Assuming a family caregiver spends, say, four hours per day during the workweek doing household chores and some personal care services, hiring someone to take over these responsibilities three days per week would cost, on average, just over $16,000 per year.
Few families likely have $16,000 that’s not earmarked for something else, but when you consider the alternatives, including assisted living and nursing home care, in-home services may be a reasonable option financially. And for older adults who don’t have such extensive needs, adult day health care a few days a week would be even more affordable, about $14,000 per year.
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.
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.
- 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.