Respite Care

Are you a caregiver for you parents? Do you help mow the lawn, wash the laundry or drive them to appointments? These tasks are often seen as ways to give back for all of the things they have done for you. It also means you are a caregiver.

When an older adult develops a medical, physical or mental condition that requires them to need additional personal care, the family may need to take on additional responsibilities. These can include preparing meals, helping the person dress and assisting with bathing and toileting. If you help one or both of your elderly parents with these types of tasks, you are considered an informal caregiver.

Respite care provides relief for caregivers. It is temporary, short-term care provided by someone other than the main caregiver. Respite care can take place in the home, at a location within the local community or at a nursing facility. Using respite care should not be considered a failure on the part of the caregiver but as a continuum of support services for the family and the older adult.


Types of respite care vary depending on where you live, your budget and the needs of both you and the person needing care. The three main types of care include in-home respite, adult day care and institutional respite.

In-Home Respite

In-home respite takes place in the individual’s house by either a volunteer or paid professional and is best suited for older adults who need a greater degree of supervision or assistance with personal care. Volunteers may be friends, family members, neighbors or church members. As unskilled volunteers they are likely to provide companionship and supervision while the caregiver is at work, an appointment or enjoying some personal time.

Professional respite-care providers are paid individuals and may have some form of training. They can be an independent provider or an employee of an agency. Depending on the skills of the respite provider, they can offer anything from supervision and companionship to assistance with household chores, personal care or skilled nursing care.

Advantages of In-Home Respite

  • Older adult can remain in a familiar environment.
  • One-on-one attention by respite worker.
  • Can be used on a regular or occasional basis.
  • Day and evening hours are available.

Disadvantages of In-Home Respite

  • Professional respite-care services can be expensive, especially if used often.
  • Unfamiliar people will be entering the home and caring for your loved one.


Adult Day Care

Adult day centers are community-based facilities that provide a protective, structured environment for older adults who need supervision and support but would also benefit from group activities. The majority of these centers are small, non-profit organizations that often provide meals and snacks, social activities, mental and physical exercise and transportation to and from the center.

Advantages of Adult Day Care:

  • Usually less expensive than in-home respite care.
  • Provides older adult with social interaction and group support.

Disadvantages of Adult Day Care:

  • Centers are usually open only during normal business hours, restricting the time services can be used.
  • Will need to physically and mentally prepare your parent for the day.
  • Some facilities may not offer transportation services.


Institutional Respite

Institutional respite care can take place at a nursing home, VA hospital-based nursing home or hospital. When an older adult is placed into a nursing facility for respite care they are usually in a professional environment that is supervised and supportive. Institutional respite is temporary and can be planned, used in the case of an emergency or as a trial basis for determining nursing home placement. 

Advantages of Institutional Respite:

  • Allows caregivers to go on overnight, weekend or extended stays knowing their loved one is in a safe environment.

Disadvantages of Institutional Respite:

  • Preparing for the visit can be extensive. The facility will require forms to be filled out and the caregiver will need to physically and mentally prepare the older adult for the stay.
  • Can be expensive and most people will need to pay out of pocket for this service.
  • Can evoke emotions of guilt or fear for the caregiver.


What you pay for respite care will depend on the services you choose and/or your eligibility for financial assistance. Since every person and every situation is different, it is important to look at all possibilities for financial support.

Government agencies and local organizations may provide caregivers with respite waivers. Certain types of insurance might cover respite services and there are respite programs that offer a sliding-fee scale for participants. Some options to explore include:

  • Local Area Agency on Aging
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Medicare & Medicaid
  • Social Security Disability
  • Veterans Administration
  • Disease-Specific Organizations (Alzheimer’s Association, Cancer Society, etc.)