Caregivers have a lot of reasons for not arranging respite for themselves. Among them: guilt, money, being too busy in the present to plan for the near future and reluctance to change their loved one’s routine.
Expert advice: Let yourself go. Respite care is made for you — and your loved one. If you’re among those caregivers who need convincing, you should know:
- Respite is good for you and your loved one.
- Being too busy to track down a respite care provider is a sign that you need a break.
- A break now can ward off burnout later.
- Respite care is often covered by insurance or an agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or Medicare. And volunteer help is available.
Becoming a family caregiver often means making less and spending more than you’d like, which can make you feel respite care is an indulgence you can’t consider. Do it anyway. Every caregiver needs a caregiver — someone who will care for your loved one for a few hours, days or weeks, so you can take care of yourself. Respite is now recognized as an essential part of the job. Volunteer groups; faith-based organizations; local, state and federal agencies; and some insurance plans are making it easier to afford respite care.
Step by Step: Finding (and Paying for) Respite Care
Step 1: Get information
Click on the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to find a contact for your local agency, which can connect you with visiting companions, hourly in-home respite care, adult day care and overnight respite providers. It also can tell you if there are local no-cost or low-cost programs, if your state Medicare program will cover some of the cost, and if financial assistance is available.
Step 2: Expand your search
- Contact faith-based caregiving organizations, including your local branches of Faith in Action or Interfaith Caregivers. Many have friendly visitor programs that will set up regular two- or three-hour social visits with your loved one, giving you time to spend on yourself.
- Elder Helpers prescreens and posts pictures and bios of local volunteers who want to visit and help older people by doing basic chores. There is no charge for visits or services.
- Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps sponsors Senior Companions, a federal, community-based program that matches volunteers over age 55 with aging people who need help with daily life activities. Volunteers visit weekly, offering assistance with tasks and friendship.
- Adult day care offers supervised, planned activities, social interaction, meals and limited health services for as little as a half day and as many as five days a week. Adult Day Care Health Services is for aging people who have qualifying intellectual, physical or mental challenges or are close to needing nursing-home level care, and includes intensive therapies and health and social services. Rules, regulations and costs vary from state to state, so you will want to look at the national picture before you find a local program. Adult day care can cost $25 to more than $100 per day, depending on the area and program. If your loved one is taking part in Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), adult day care is free. State Medicaid waiver programs approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) may pay for adult day services or adult day health services according to a person-centered plan of care for beneficiaries who have nursing facility or institutional level-of-care requirements or are at risk of institutionalization.
- Check out your area parks and recreation department for activities, social and exercise programs and lunch for older people. Many also offer adult day care for aging people who are frail or have disabilities.
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Step 3: Click and connect
Find respite providers in your state by checking these out.
- Eldercare Locator for help finding a provider and information about respite care in your community.
- ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center to track down local respite care in your state.
- Family Caregiver Alliance for information about caregiver respite services available in your state.
- Alzheimer’s Association for respite care for patients with dementia. Some respite scholarships are available.
- Department of Veterans Affairs for information on how to receive up to 30 days of respite care each year. Click on the tabs "Am I eligible?" and "What services are available?"
- Inpatient Respite Care. Many nursing homes and care facilities offer short-term respite care. If your loved one qualifies for the hospice benefit, Medicare will pay for most of the Medicare-approved amount for respite care provided by an approved inpatient facility.
Family Caregiver Respite Grants
A quick search will reveal local and state grants that pay for temporary caregivers to allow the family caregiver time off for respite. Among the national grants: Road Scholar and the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD; for caregivers of people with FTD)