Respite Care for Elderly: 8 Ways for Caregivers to Get a Break

Top respite care options for caregivers, and how to find them
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Every caregiver needs a break from time to time. Options for respite care for elderly adults range from informal agreements with friends and neighbors to formal contracts for services with an agency or onsite at a facility. Here are 8 ways to get occasional or regular backup help for a few hours, a few days, or longer.

1. Ask family and friends for help

How it helps: You'll get a break; those filling in will better understand both your needs and your elderly loved one's needs. An added benefit: The one receiving care will benefit from receiving comfort and company from another trusted person.

What it costs: This type of respite care is usually free. It's sometimes a good idea to either pay a small amount or to compensate family or friends informally with gift cards, restaurant meals, or other goods or services.

How to get started: Ask the elderly person who needs care whom he or she misses most or would like to spend more time with and who may also be able to lend a hand. When approaching potential helpers, be specific about what's required -- and get a solid commitment about the days and times they're available.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

2. Companion care

How it helps: An elder companion can prepare meals, do light housekeeping, help with laundry, shop for groceries, run errands -- and, most important, offer companionship to the elderly person you care for when you can't be there.

What it costs: Companion care can range from free services provided by local volunteers to $10 or more per hour for help arranged through an in-home care agency, depending on the type of care needed and the time of day. Medicaid or Medi-Cal may help pay some of the costs of respite care from a licensed provider for those who have low incomes and few assets.

How to get started: From local sources to national groups and organizations, there are many sources for companion care.

Word-of-mouth referrals. If you know of a neighbor, friend, or family member who's been able to find a good match for companionship needs, ask how -- and whether he or she might be able to recommend others for the position.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

In-home elder care agencies. Start your search by using's In-Home Care Directory to find an agency near your elderly loved one -- and to see ratings and reviews.

Meals on Wheels. In addition to providing the hallmark service they're known best for -- deliveries of meals to the homes of older adults and others with mobility limitations -- many local Meals on Wheels programs provide outreach services, including a Friendly Visitor Program that pairs a volunteer with a neighboring senior. Begin your search for local help at the Meals on Wheels website.

The Area Agency on Aging. Trained staff at your local Area Agency on Aging can usually provide referrals for local help.

Local newspapers. Try placing an ad briefly describing your needs in a local or community newspaper.

Local high school students. Contact area high school counselors. College-bound students often need community service experience and are available afternoons and evenings.

3. Personal care assistant

How it helps: Personal care assistants -- in addition to providing light housekeeping and homemaking tasks -- can help clients with bathing, dressing, toileting, and grooming. They can't provide medical services, such as diabetes care, but they can help administer prescribed medications and -- if they have the proper training -- help move those who have mobility limitations.

What it costs: Costs range from $15 to $40 per hour for intermittent help; $120 to $200 per day or more for live-in care.

How to get started: You can locate in-home care agencies in your area by searching's Senior Living Directory.

4. Adult day services

How it helps: Adult day services, sometimes called adult daycare, provide some health monitoring, mind and body exercise, social activities, meals, transportation (often door to door), and other support services. Most offer a safe, supervised environment for clients as well as respite for regular caregivers. Facilities include stand-alone centers, churches, hospitals, and nursing homes.

What it costs: The cost from a licensed provider ranges from $25 to $150 per day; many offer sliding-scale fees and accept Medicaid and some types of insurance coverage.

How to get started: It's best to contact and tour possible adult day services providers to find the best fit for your loved one. Two good places to find leads:

Use's Senior Living Directory to search for adult day services by city or zip code -- and to see ratings and reviews.

Contact the staff at your local Area Agency on Aging and ask for a referral.

5. Assisted living respite care

How it helps: Many assisted-living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) offer room and board for older adults who need help with everyday tasks. Time frames range from a partial day to several weeks. The stay allows residents and their families peace of mind, knowing that a caregiver is always close at hand. A possible added benefit: The arrangement allows a commitment-free way for a potential resident to check out whether the facility might be a good fit down the line.

What it costs: Many facilities offer hourly, half-day, full-day, overnight, or extended respite stays. Costs average $100 to $250 per day, depending on the amount of care needed; some places impose minimums and maximums on the number of days for a respite stay.

How to get started: Some facilities offer respite stays only when not at full capacity, and some don't advertise their respite services openly, so you may need to do some investigating to find a local facility that offers the service. Some places to contact for help:

Go to's Senior Living Directory and search for assisted living facilities and nursing homes by city or zip code.

Contact the staff at your local Area Agency on Aging and ask for a referral.

6. Caregiver co-op

How it helps: Organized co-ops give members an affordable way to pitch in and take turns caring for one another's charges in exchange for some time off. The arrangement not only gives caregivers more time for themselves; it also fosters a sense of community among both those who give and receive the care.

What it costs: There's usually no charge; members qualify for respite services by volunteering time caring for other co-op members' loved ones.

How to get started: Talk with neighbors or friends who have similar needs; in such cases, it is usually a good idea to have a central person charged with keeping track of the availability and scheduling of the volunteers caregivers. Or check with local community centers or adult day services providers to see if one has already started a co-op.

7. Veterans options

How it helps: The Veterans Administration (VA) offers a number of programs and support for veterans and for some wartime veterans who are caring for their spouses -- all designed to give the primary caregivers some help and time off.

Adult day healthcare centers. Many local VAs operate adult day healthcare centers, open Monday through Friday, which offer caregiver respite and focus on rehabilitation for veterans.

Home-based care. The VA's home-based primary care program delivers care such as meal planning and preparation, medication management, nursing, and social services to some veterans whose medical issues make it difficult to leave home. A similar VA program, Skilled Home Care, offers this care from licensed non-VA medical professionals.

Homemaker and home health aide program. Staffed by home health aides who make regular visits, this program helps veterans with personal care needs such as help with eating and bathing.

Respite care. The VA provides qualified veterans with up to 30 days of respite care each year at home or through temporary placement of a veteran at a VA community living center, a VA-contracted community residential care facility, or an adult day healthcare center.

What it costs: The services are generally free or offered for a minimal amount for qualifying veterans and their family members.

How to get started: Both a telephone hotline and website can help you in this search.

Staff at the VA's Caregiver Support Line, available Monday through Saturday at (855) 260-3274, can explain what assistance is available from the VA and help callers get access to other local services.

Also, most VA offices are staffed with licensed caregiver support coordinators who can help match callers with services for which they're eligible. Find the local coordinator by searching by zip code on the VA's Help Near Home page.

8. Respite locator service

How it helps: The National Respite Locator Service helps caregivers and professionals find respite services in their local area to match their specific needs for emergency or planned respite care. Although it doesn't provide an exhaustive list of all possible providers, it can be a helpful source in helping to jump-start a search.

What it costs: The service is free; the cost of respite services varies greatly. About 30 states run Lifespan Respite Programs funded by the Administration on Aging that helps fund local respite services.

How to get started: Start your search at the Respite Locator Service.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

12 months, said...

Hello My name is Mary and I am looking for someone to care for my husband from Wednesday- Sunday I feel as tough I need a little space for that long. He is very good man and I have been doing this for 4 years just me and my daughter. I would like to go to a convention in Winston Salem September 6-10. I have been looking for help with this . I want him close to me instead of far a way. Thanks Mary Alston

about 1 year, said...

My wife has AD, and I am at the point that I can no longer get away and leave her alone for more than 2 hours. What is the best option in the Fredricksburg area. I understand friends are always the best, but I prefer not to impose on them, rather to use them for special occasions like going to lunch.

almost 2 years, said...

would an adult day care accept my 34 year old husband he wears diapers 24/7 due to incontinence. he can't wear pull ups due to heavy wetting and leaking . only thing that keeps him dry is pads and tab adult diapers. he can't correctly diaper himself we've tried. which leaves me changing him . but I'm not able to stay home 24/7 or able to change him in most public places. we both agree adult day care would be better then me having one of my friends sit with him and change him . so he is willing to get dropped off at a center . the only help he would require is to be changed when wet . I'm really at a loss as what to do

over 2 years, said...

i am so exhausted, my mother has early dementia and stroke survivor she is 76 and i am 37. i had to drop out of college 6 years ago to help take care of mom because my dad died. i am trying my best to juggle my life working to make a living and take care of mom,.....who at times is a baffling toddler or a rebellious teenager at times. i havent had time for myself or slept well in 6 years,...:( i dont know what to do or who to turn too. someone mentioned to me that i could make money caring for mom thru a program offered by disabled and aging services but i was denied help the case worker told me it was just my responsibility to care for my mom since she lived with me and it is a normal process. i think she is sadly mistaken. it is a lot of work caring and watching for an elderly with that mental deterioration. i was so hurt and confused. if teen mom get government help to help raise there kids with medicaid and free everything why cant servior be offered the same help and there loved ones caring for them. my mom worked hard all her life and only collects a small retirement and disability check the rest i have to scrounge to pay. i wish there was someone or something i could do to get help. i feel like my life is passing me by and i feel so sick and tired all the time. the emotional strain on me and mom are maxed out. if anyone has any ideas, please feel free to call me or email e at[Private Information Removed] thank you all and god bless.

over 3 years, said...

All the searching I have ever done and it has been A LOT, there just isnt enough or any at all ways to give live-in caregivers a break, like im talking getting the person in question out of the house and in an adult day care and even over night to give us caregivers a break! Sad

about 4 years, said...

For those who have recently commented that you're having difficulty finding respite resources, we do offer a directory you can use to search by zip code (or city/state) and get results that include reviews from other consumers: Find In-Home Care = and Find Senior Living Communities Offering Respite Stays = Both of these tools also include informational resources to help you understand your care options and how to pay for them. The "friends and family" suggestion was just one of several in this article, because as straightforward as it seems, there are still some folks who have not yet reached out to their social circle for help (either because they felt uncomfortable doing so, or they had beliefs that others wouldn't help, or for other reasons). If that's not an issue for you, great, and I hope the other suggestions will be helpful to you. Please also feel free to call our family advisors for help finding respite care providers: (866) 824-8174. This is another free service from

about 4 years, said...

I'm sorry but I agree with the previous poster. Duh! If we had family or friends that could or would help don't you think that would have been done? This article as well as others on this site have not offered any real assistance. The Respite locator service does not let you sort by what type of individual you require help with. You have to search by state, not zip code. I live in a rural area on the border of 2 states. In my area the listings were Homes for people born with mental disabilities. Or offers for "visits" "field trips". NOT IN HOME CARE. Not for aging adults that do not have any problem aside from old age which in our case only requires someone to be in the home while we are gone to make him food and just being there in the event he slips and falls or has an unusual medical emergency. He is over 90, not very mobile. So far I am not finding what I need here.

about 4 years, said...

Ask family to help??? DUH! Don't you think we would do that IF there was any family to help? I would like to go on a vacation with my grandchildren but I am trapped with no way out and no help. Respite for 2 weeks would be a GODSEND....but I'm not getting any help or needed information from anywhere right now.

about 4 years, said...

Hi. Mom passed away on March 25, 2014 and was laid to rest April 4, 2014. I have felt like I am living another person's life since she has been gone. It seems as if I am in another dimension watching someone else going through the motions. I had not stayed at our condo since Mom was laid to rest until last night. It was so strange. As long as I didn't go in Mom's room or look in there, I was not sad, but when I looked in her room, I would have flasbacks and get teary. I started bereavement counseling last Friday and it was a great session through Hospice of the Valley. I will be getting involved in a few other bereavement/grief groups as well. I had been staying at my daughter's house since laying Mom to rest. My daughter has been wonderful, taking care of me. For now, I am going to stay at home Monday mornings until Friday evenings and stay with my daughter on the weekends from Friday evenings until Monday mornings. Mom was 81yrs old and I had taken care of her for ten years. Mom has always been my best friend and we became even closer after she came to live with me. I miss her so much. Her heart failed due to the main four arteries finally went 100% clogged and she had a seizure. I just found out yesterday that she was having a seizure when I went to wake her that morning for daycare. I spoke with her cardiologist yesterday and explained how I found her that morning and what how I gave Mom chest compressions like the 911 dispatcher had advised me to do after removing Mom from her bed to the floor. I was told to do those until the paramedics got there to take over. It was horrible seeing Mom go through all of the convulsing of her body, eyes rolling in back in her head, and fluid like a fountain gushing from her mouth and to keep doing the heart compressions the whole time until the paramedics got there to take over. I kept losing it and the dispatcher was wonderful keeping me on track and bringing me back when I would lose it. The look on Mom's face was so frightening. I wanted to help her and make all of the symptoms she was going through stop, but they didn't. I felt helpless , but kept doing the heart compressions until the paramedics got there to relieve me. We rushed her by ambulance to the emergency room and the staff was amazing. They tried so hard to revive her but couldn't. They didn't want to give up on her and for me they tried one more time that normal protocol to revive her because I asked them to try once more. They knew there was no hope, but tried anyway. I have to send a Thank you card to the staff that worked tirelessly on Mom that morning as well as the dispatcher for 911 and the paramedics. I also have a huge stack of cards and services that were provided for our family to also send Thank You's out to. I will get it done. I have been trying to start but, haven't done it yet. The counselor said it's ok, it is normal behaviorand I will get to them. My whole life has changed and I feel like I am in a dream gong through the motions. I pray that no one will experience what I did in the last hour of Mom's life. It hurts so much to think of her going through that and was trying to say "help me" but couldn't. Keep me in your prayers. Thank you.

over 4 years, said...

My mom is 96 yrs old. I am youngest of 7 and single. I take care of my mom at night in her home, my neice comes in during the day and takes care of her when i am at work. I would like to find someone to come in a couple of hrs at night so i can have time to myself.

over 4 years, said...

This helps give you ideas about approaching family for assistance and also reminding you to ask what the senior wants.

about 5 years, said...

i have a terminal disease but i also have a child with cerebral pasly and what i need is someone to assst me as i get worse with my child and then someone to come in and help my oldest daughter with her after i am gone, please i dont want phone calls but you can email me

over 5 years, said...

I want to contact an assisted living home for my mother in the Conroe, Tx or surrounding area that will let her come for a few days as a trial. Eventually it will be permanently but I would like to start by doing a weekend every so often so that when that time comes, the transition will be much easier. I don't want to leave my phone number, I don't want calls ! But I would like to contact places on my own and at my convenience. Thank you

over 5 years, said...

very helpful.. I work round the clock with my Mother. i still feel guilty just going to store though..

over 5 years, said...

I was reading an older comment about an Alzheimer's patient who refused to go to respite care. My aunt was very stubborn about having caregivers come in to our home to help me out. I found that she will argue with me but not as much with other members of our family. I suppose that is because I am closest to her. In my case, I had the caregiver manager come out to meet her and she was impressed and signed on for care. Sometimes if I can't get her to do something, my husband can usually talk her into cooperation. You just need to get someone else to intervene depending on the situation.