What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is short-term or temporary care which can be provided in your home, at an adult daycare center, or in a residential community, which may also offer assisted living to permanent residents.

Respite care gives family members and other caregivers much-needed breaks from the physical and emotional demands of regularly caring for someone else, and it allows the senior to participate in activities and to socialize with others besides their caregiver.

The length of the break can vary greatly depending on where the care is offered. For example, a caregiver may leave the senior they care for at an adult day care just a few hours a week while they run errands, or they may leave them at a residential program for several weeks while taking a vacation.

What Is Respite Care Like?

Respite care is provided in three very different settings, each with specific benefits:

  • Home Respite Care – This allows the senior to stay in familiar surroundings, an important consideration if the individual suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In addition to help with daily tasks, the temporary caregiver provides companionship to the senior and will engage them in activities such as exercise or games. This type of care is often provided by a home healthcare agency, volunteers, or an individual who is hired by the senior or their family.
  • Adult Daycare Centers – These allow the senior to socialize with others their age and to participate in many activities like arts and crafts, games and physical fitness. They are a good source of respite care for individuals who still maintain a moderate level of functionality, but need care during the day while their caregiver work, runs errands or just takes a break. These centers usually operate during set hours during the day only. Meals and snacks are usually provided, and seniors get help with tasks like taking their medicine and going to the bathroom, if needed.
  • Residential Programs – Some assisted living communities offer live-in respite care on a short-term basis, ranging from a couple of days to as long as a month. During their stay, the senior can expect to receive the same services as they would in assisted living; the only difference is that their stay is temporary.

What’s It Like to Stay Somewhere Offering Respite Care?

If you receive respite care in a residential program, you may live in a small apartment or a you may only have a bedroom and bath that is private or shared with a roommate.

During your stay, you can expect a helping hand with daily tasks such as bathing, getting dressed, and taking your medications, as needed. Your meals will also be prepared for you.

There will be lots of daily activities to keep you busy as well. These range from art classes and games to exercise programs.  You’ll also be able to socialize with other residents.

You can feel safe, even though your caregiver is away, as the assisted living community will have around-the-clock security and you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that someone will be nearby in case of an emergency.

What to Expect from Respite Care?


  • If respite care is provided in your home, you won’t have to worry about lifestyle changes. You’ll just have someone new to take care of you while your family member or other regular caregiver takes a break.
  • If respite care is provided at an adult daycare center, the days that you stay there can be a good opportunity for you to get out of the house and interact with new people. Your meals will be prepared and served to you, and there will be lots of activities to keep you busy until your family member or other caregiver picks you up to take you back home.
  • If you move into an assisted living facility on a short-term basis for respite care, you will have to adjust to being away from your home, but remember that it’s only for a short time. Try to make the best of it and think of it as an adventure. Explore your new surroundings, meet new people, participate in as many activities as you can, and maybe even learn a new thing or two.


This will vary depending on the respite care setting.

  1. In a residential program, you get the same type of help with daily tasks that you would receive in assisted living, only on a short-term basis. These include your meals and accommodations, plus help with daily tasks that you need assistance with, like bathing, grooming, getting dressed and taking medications.If you receive respite care in your home, you’ll get help preparing meals and with other daily tasks like bathing and getting dressed, based on what you need. For example, you may want to bathe yourself, but need a hand getting in and out of the bathtub. Some home health care agencies or individuals will provide overnight care in the home if needed.
  2. In an adult daycare setting, you may only receive meals and help going to the bathroom and taking medications, as you will already be bathed and dressed when you arrive there.

Costs for Respite Care

The costs of respite care can vary greatly depending on the setting, but this is how each typically charges:

  • Home healthcare agencies that provide respite care in the home usually bill their services at a fixed hourly rate for a minimum number of hours. A typical shift is two or three hours.
  • Adult daycare centers may charge per day or per hour. Many centers have a sliding pay scale that allows families to pay what they can afford based on their income.
  • The costs of respite care in a residential program will vary depending on the location of the facility, the type and size of the unit where the senior will live, and the amenities and services that are offered.

According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the National Median cost of Adult Day Care in the United States is $70 per day.