Understanding Who Pays for Respite Care: A Complete Guide

Verified by Michelle Chamberlain, Director of Nursing

Couple planning finances and wondering who pays for respite care
Table of Contents

Respite care is a crucial service that provides temporary relief for primary caregivers, especially those taking care of elderly or disabled individuals. This article aims to guide you through the landscape of respite care, particularly focusing on the question: who pays for respite care?

What is Respite Care?

Respite care, by definition, is a short-term relief service provided to primary caregivers. It enables caregivers to take a break, reducing their stress and avoiding burnout. Services can range from a few hours to several weeks and can be provided at home or in a care facility.

Respite care for the elderly is of paramount importance. It allows primary caregivers, often family members, to rest and recharge, which ultimately results in improved care quality. Respite care can also provide seniors with a change of routine and the opportunity to interact with others, benefiting their emotional well-being.

Respite care has been found to improve both the physical and mental health of primary caregivers. The temporary break can reduce stress, prevent burnout, and enhance overall well-being. Moreover, the care recipient can enjoy social interaction and stimulation, contributing to their health and happiness.

We will now have a look at who pays for respite care, but if your next question is ”how many hours of respite care are you allowed”, make sure to read our article that answers that question!

Who Pays for Respite Care?

A common question surrounding respite care is: who pays for respite care? The answer is multifaceted and depends on various factors including location, income, insurance coverage, and the type of care required.

Will Medicare Pay for Respite Care?

Medicare, the U.S. federal health insurance program primarily for people aged 65 or older, can cover some aspects of respite care under certain circumstances.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit includes respite care as a service. Under this benefit, if a patient’s usual caregiver (like a family member) needs rest, the patient can get inpatient respite care in a Medicare-approved facility (like a hospice inpatient facility, hospital, or nursing home). Medicare will cover the cost of up to five days of respite care at a time. This service can be used only occasionally and can be provided on an intermittent, non-routine, and unscheduled basis.

However, it is crucial to understand that this benefit is only available to patients who have elected to receive hospice care, meaning they have a life expectancy of six months or less and have chosen palliative care over curative treatments.

For those not in hospice care, Medicare generally does not cover long-term in-home care services like 24-hour-a-day care at home, meals delivered to the home, and homemaker services like shopping, cleaning, and laundry. It also does not cover personal care given by home health aides like bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom when this is the only care needed. If you’re not in hospice care, then read on to learn about who pays for respite care.

Private Insurance and Respite Care

Private insurance can play a role in financing respite care, although coverage varies widely between plans and providers. The specifics of what is covered, how much is covered, and under what circumstances respite care is covered, are largely dictated by the individual policy terms and conditions.

Health insurance companies often classify respite care as ‘home health care’ or ‘long-term care’, both of which may be included in certain policies. However, it is crucial to understand the definitions and stipulations within the policy as they may have specific requirements for coverage eligibility.

For example, some policies might only cover respite care if it is deemed medically necessary or prescribed by a healthcare professional. Additionally, they may require that the care be provided by a licensed agency or a certified professional. There could also be limitations on the duration of care that is covered or a cap on the total dollar amount that will be paid out.

Long-term care insurance is another form of private insurance that may cover respite care. These policies are specifically designed to cover services that are not typically covered by traditional health insurance, including respite care. However, they also come with their own set of requirements and restrictions2.

How Much Does the State Pay for Respite Care?

The amount of respite care costs covered by state programs can vary significantly based on several factors including the specific state, the program in question, the individual’s eligibility, and the nature and extent of the care required.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the Department of Aging provides a variety of programs that may help cover the cost of respite care for eligible individuals. The Aging Waiver Program, for instance, offers services including respite care for Pennsylvanians age 60 and older who are clinically eligible for nursing facility care. The amount of aid provided is determined based on individual circumstances and care needs.

In addition to state-funded programs, many states also have non-profit organizations that offer financial assistance or sliding scale fees for respite care services. These organizations often work in conjunction with state and local agencies to ensure that those who need respite care can access it.

Does Medicaid Pay for Respite Care?

Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that helps cover medical costs for some people with limited income and resources, can indeed help cover the cost of respite care. However, the specifics can vary significantly depending on the state and the individual’s eligibility.

Most states have Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers that provide for respite care among other services. These waiver programs, also referred to as 1915(c) waivers, help individuals who are eligible for nursing home level care but prefer to receive these services in their home or community.

Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that helps cover medical costs for some people with limited income and resources, can indeed help cover the cost of respite care. However, the specifics can vary significantly depending on the state and the individual’s eligibility.

Most states have Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers that provide for respite care among other services. These waiver programs, also referred to as 1915(c) waivers, help individuals who are eligible for nursing home level care but prefer to receive these services in their home or community.

Out-of-Pocket Payment

Understanding who pays for respite care implies that in some cases where insurance does not cover respite care, and there are no applicable government programs, the costs must be handled out-of-pocket by the individual or family requiring the service. Out-of-pocket payment essentially means that the costs of respite care are paid directly by the individual or family without reimbursement from insurance or government programs.

Out-of-pocket expenses for respite care can vary greatly depending on several factors:

  • Type of care: The type of respite care can significantly impact the overall cost. In-home respite care might be priced by the hour, while facility-based care (like adult day care centers or overnight nursing homes) might charge daily or weekly rates.
  • Duration of care: The length of respite care required is another factor that will affect out-of-pocket costs. Respite care can range from a few hours a week to provide a primary caregiver with a short break, up to several weeks at a time for situations such as a caregiver’s vacation or recovery from illness or surgery.
  • Caregiver qualifications: The qualifications of the individual providing respite care can also influence cost. Professional caregivers or those with specialized training (such as dementia care) may charge higher rates than less experienced or less specialized caregivers.

For many families, out-of-pocket payment can be a significant financial commitment. It is crucial to carefully assess the needs of the care recipient and the budget constraints to find the most cost-effective solution. Various resources, including financial advisors or social workers, can provide guidance and help navigate the process of financing respite care.

Cost of Respite Care Per Week

The cost of respite care can vary widely depending on several factors, including the level of care needed, the type of respite care (in-home vs. facility-based), the geographic location, and the duration of the services.

In the case of in-home respite care, caregivers are typically paid an hourly rate. According to the Genworth 2022 Cost of Care Survey, the national median hourly rate for homemaker services, which includes general in-home care, is around $25 per hour. However, rates can be higher or lower depending on the location and the specific services required.

For facility-based respite care, such as adult day care centers or overnight stays in nursing homes, costs are often calculated on a daily or weekly basis. According to the same Genworth survey, the national median cost for adult day care services is around $78 per day. For a semi-private room in a nursing home, the median daily cost is approximately $255.

Given these rates, a week of respite care can range from about $550 for adult day care (assuming a five-day week) to $1,785 for a semi-private room in a nursing home. However, it’s important to note that these are just estimates and actual costs can vary. Some providers may offer discounted rates for longer periods of care or for individuals with financial need.

Conclusion: Who Pays for Respite Care for the Elderly?

The financial responsibility of respite care often falls on a combination of private insurance, government aid, and out-of-pocket payment. You now know who pays for respite care for the elderly. It will greatly depend on individual circumstances, including financial status, location, and the specific needs of the care recipient. Careful research and consultation with professionals can help find the most suitable and affordable respite care options.

To sum up, respite care is an invaluable resource for caregivers and care recipients alike. Despite the potential financial concerns, it offers substantial health benefits and peace of mind. Therefore, understanding who pays for respite care is vital for those considering this form of support.

If you have any other questions or if you are ready to hire a caregiver, Tahara Health is a leading home care agency that offers respite care in Pennsylvania!


  1. Alzheimer’s Association. (2022). Respite Care. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/care-options/respite-care
  2. American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. (2021). Long-Term Care Insurance Facts – Data – Statistics – 2021 Report. Retrieved from http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/ltcfacts-2021.php
  3. Genworth. (2022). Cost of Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
  4. National Institute on Aging. (2020). Respite Care. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-respite-care
  5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2021). Long-Term Care. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/aging/long-term-care/index.html
  6. Zarit, S. H., Kim, K., Femia, E. E., Almeida, D. M., Savla, J., & Molenaar, P. C. (2011). Effects of adult day care on daily stress of caregivers: a within-person approach. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 66(5), 538–546. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbr030
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