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Senior Care Essentials: Costs and Benefits of Respite Care

Costs and Benefits of Respite CareThis is not going to be a course in economics, but quite often caregivers of family members get more focused on how much respite care casts instead of on how much everyone benefits. Talking about costs first, there are three kinds of costs for respite care: dollars you pay, dollars someone else pays and what you can get for free.

Starting with the dollars you pay, give careful consideration to the level of care you need for the older adult for whom you may be the caregiver.  If the adult in your charge needs help with a whole range of activities of daily living such as eating or toileting, then there will be a higher hourly rate in order to get qualified respite care.  If, you are closer to the other end of the continuum and mom or dad can get around quite well, but need to be watched so that they do not wander, then you may be able to save significant dollars by simply engaging the services of an aid or similarly-trained individual.

Getting respite care for free?  First, don’t forget to consider other members of your own family.  Even a brother or sister who has a day job can offer respite care in off hours or on weekends.  Get to know other caregivers in your own circle of friends so that you can get some respite when one of them is willing to watch your mom or dad along with their own and vice versa.  It is good for everyone when your respite becomes their chance to socialize.  Check out resources for Chicago senior services, local community colleges or even high schools for students who either need to generate hours for community service or need hours toward course requirements in social work or other helping profession.

And consider the following resources that may subsidize respite care:

    • Not for profit agencies like the Alzheimer’s Association or the United Way sponsor programs where older adults can be scheduled for respite care.


    • VA benefits cover up to thirty days of respite care for qualified veterans and there are other services that vary on a state by state basis.


    • Some long term care policies have provisions for respite care, but they likely have caps on dollars or time.


    • Medicaid in some states offers waivers for federal dollars to cover respite care, so check your local agency.


    • Some organizations are funded by outside grants to provide respite care, so check web sites for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or others.


    • Check what is available from your state by contacting your local Council on Aging.


Most important, don’t forget the benefits of respite care. The most important of which is you will do a better job caring for someone else when you care for yourself.

    • Get regular breaks and the relief than will come from them.


    • Make a list of your loved one’s preferences, medication schedules and any suggestions for what may come up on the respite provider’s watch.


    • You respite care provider is your back-up, so don’t forget to back-up your back-up with alternatives should there be an emergency.


    • For peace of mind stay involved by paying attention to any changes in your loved one’s behavior following respite care, and ask the respite provider how things went.


    • Find other caregivers with whom you can speak.  Even an informal support group can give you advice and insights into how better care for your loved one and for you.


    • And remember that respite care does not cost nearly as much as it pays to all involved.


Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to Learn more about What We Do and how we can help you support your loved one.


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