Page Reviewed / Updated - September 20, 2020
Caregiver respite programs provide trained caregivers that attend to the individual in need of care to give the primary caregiver time to relax and attend to their own needs. Typically respite care occurs in the family home, but can occur in adult day care centers or overnight residential facilities.
The process for obtaining respite care differs with each administering agency but typically it works as follows. A caregiver contacts their local Area Agency on Aging (AAAs) and has on-the-phone pre-screening. This is followed by a home visit by a respite care manager that assesses the needs of the care recipient, talks with family members and may talk with their doctor.
If approved for respite care, the caregiver typically receives a voucher for a certain number of hours or a dollar amount. They can then interview potential respite providers, usually from a pre-approved list provided by their AAA. On occasion, the AAA has a list of volunteers from which the family can choose. It is normal to ask the respite caregiver questions about their background and caregiving experience so that the family is comfortable.
Eligibility requirements for respite care differ with each administering AAA. The information that follows is typical. However, one should check with their local AAA for specific details.
When receiving respite care, there are two different age requirements: the age of the care recipient and the age of their primary caregiver. The majority of AAA’s require that a caregiver be at least 18 years old and the care recipient be 60+ years old, although some require 65+. The majority of AAA’s also allow caregivers 18 years and older to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a similar disorder, regardless of the age of the care recipient.
Typically, there are no requirements that the caregiver be a family member to receive respite care, only that they are the primary individual providing care. Caregivers are generally not required to live with the individual in need of care.
The NFCSP’s Respite Care Program's intention is to give priority to older persons with low incomes when choosing their beneficiaries. Most AAAs will assess the income and sometimes the assets of the care recipient. While there are not published financial limits, and some programs do not have income and asset limits, a rule of thumb is those seniors whose incomes fall within 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) will be eligible for respite care. In 2018, the projected, annual income limit for an unmarried, widowed or otherwise single individual is $24,280. The limit for married couples or two-person households is projected at $32,920. Note in Alaska and Hawaii, these amounts are slightly higher. That said, individuals with the greatest need are given priority for services.
A caregiver’s or care recipient’s veteran status is not a factor in determining eligibility for NFCSP’ respite care. Note that there is another respite care program specifically for veterans.
The Area Agencies on Aging that administer NFCSP’s Respite Care Program have specific coverage areas. Care recipients must live within their Agency’s coverage area, which typically are determined by county.
Other additional requirements for the NFCSP’s Respite Care Program may exist. These can include:
The respite care limits differ with each Area Agency on Aging that administers the program. One AAA published their limits as 32 hours of respite care every 3 months and another published theirs as $3,500 in services per year. However most AAAs do not publish this information, as it changes continuously based on availability and budget.
The eligibility evaluation and processing period also changes with each AAA provider. Applicants should expect to wait several months between initial contact and actually receiving the care. Waiting lists sometimes exist that can significantly lengthen the time before receiving care.
Most commonly, respite care from the Area Agencies on Aging is offered free of charge. However, some agencies require a co-payment based on income. For example, they may grant $500 of respite care, but a 20% co-pay is required for the services. Said another way, a family pays $100, and in return, receives $500 worth of care.
Applications for respite care are available at one's local Area Agency on Aging.