Respite Care

DEFINITION of 'Respite Care'

Respite care involves short term or temporary care of a few hours or weeks. Respite care is designed for the sick or disabled to provide relief, or respite, to the regular caregiver. The regular caregiver is usually a family member. A family member may be hesitant to seek or use respite care to leave a loved one in the care of another; however, there is evidence that caregivers who take a break from the associated stresses can help prevent incidents of neglect or abuse.

BREAKING DOWN 'Respite Care'

Respite care typically comes into play with patients who are disabled, developmentally disabled, terminally ill or elderly. People who need round-the-clock care and supervision often need long-term, constant care. Respite care gives family members a break from the stressful task of nearly constant care of a loved one. Caregivers provide temporary relief when a full-time caregiver travels, tries to ease an elderly family member into an assisted living situation or simply needs a break. Respite caregivers provide meals, medication management, housekeeping, personal hygiene care and laundry service, among other services, for those who need regular care. Some respite care providers might take patients for outings and to activities away from the residence.


Families can incur extra expenses related to respite care. The caregiver normally goes into a person's private residence to care for the patient. A home care aide averages $21 per hour, while a person who just performs housekeeping charges an average $19 an hour. Short-term respite care normally means two to four hours. Many caregivers charge a minimum number of hours to make it worth their time. Longer-term care, for eight hours a day and five days a week, averages $67 a day. Health insurance can cover respite care costs in some cases. Organizations and special interest groups may provide grants for people with specific diseases. The Alzheimer's Association and the M.S. Society have grant opportunities for people who care for patients with those medical conditions.


As many as 65 million Americans care for an aging or disabled loved one, partially due to an aging population from the baby boomer generation. Before signing up for respite care, a family should check into the credentials of the temporary caregiver. Full-time caregivers should ask for references and set up an appointment to meet the caregiver before agreeing to a contract. Families should know precisely how respite care services are billed, and both parties should have a signed copy of the contract. Respite care agencies may fill out insurance forms, offer several payment methods and set up billing schedules so the family knows exactly how much money to budget.