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Respite Care

signs of a stroke - respite care

Respite Care for a Caregiving Break

Have you ever heard of respite care? It is a kind of care for a loved one that a caregiver can access privately or through Medicare which gives the primary caregiver a break for a short period.

I have known only a few caregivers who were taking care of elderly parents in their homes daily who have used respite care services. A couple found it necessary to use respite care when they wanted to attend a family wedding and a graduation that would require long distance travel and a weekend away from home. A few caregivers I know have used respite care for their parents when it was necessary for the caregivers themselves to have an elective surgery or medical treatment at a hospital.

They needed that time for recovery before resuming care for their parent at home.

Under Medicare regulations, respite care may be provided in a Medicare participating hospital or hospice inpatient facility, or a Medicare or Medicaid participating nursing facility. Many nursing homes have a few rooms set aside for respite care patients, as do assisted living and memory care facilities. Using Medicare benefits, respite care may be provided only on an occasional basis and may not be reimbursed for more than 5 consecutive days at a time. Patients may be held responsible to pay for charges for day 6 and beyond.

However, respite care can be provided in places other than a hospital, a nursing facility or a hospice facility. It is possible to have respite care services in the patient’s home. It is possible to pay privately for respite care in home or in a facility if you have the funds. Home health care, chore services, companion services, adult day care centers, and nursing home services can be considered as respite care services for the caregiver and patient.

One study about respite care use performed in the late ‘80’s concluded said that many caregiver spouses are resistant to the idea of respite care if that would involve moving the patient to another facility outside the home, because of the task of moving, and because they worry about the emotional adjustment of the patient to being in an unknown facility even for a short while. This is especially important to caregivers for patients with dementia. Having to move the patient to another facility and worrying about the patient’s care in a place other than home would not have provided a worry-free, restful experience for the caregivers.

Most of the caregiver participants in this study were more comfortable with short-term in-home respite care than with services in another facility. The fact that the household tasks in the patient’s home were also taken care of by care workers also was seen as a big advantage by the caregivers. The study concluded that using respite care services helped the experience of caregiving to be more positive over a period of time.

If you are interested in getting respite care for your loved one, then contact the person’s primary physician or a local nursing home or hospice facility that offers respite care services. The doctor must be involved in the process for Medicare to pay for the respite care. Provision of respite paid by Medicare depends upon the needs of the patient and of the patient’s caregiver, within the limitations given by Medicare regulations. Call Medicare at 800-633-4227 to get more information about how your loved one might use Medicare benefits for respite care while you the caregiver get a break.


Study mentioned:
“Respite care: lessons from a controlled design study.” by Rhonda J.V. Montgomery. in Health Care Financing Review, 1988 Annual Supplement. Research contract supported by the University of Washington, Institute on Aging.

1 thought on “Respite Care

  1. It’s interesting that Medicare benefits could not be reimbursed for 5 days. My aunt is getting older and we’re thinking of getting some respite care for her as she recovers from her recent hip surgery. I’ll have to keep researching the different options that she has.

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