How Do I Pay for Respite Care?

May 31, 2017

6 tips for finding funding for respite care costs when you need help looking after someone who is elderly or has disabilities or special needs.



We know the story. You're too busy to find respite care and you're pretty sure you can't afford it either. But we also know you probably really need it after juggling care for an aging parent or special needs child, while trying to manage the rest of your life.

Providing care can sometimes mean missed work days or reduced hours, and finances can become strained. For many caregivers, seeking relief through respite care, where someone else takes over your caregiving duties for a while, seems prohibitive. But you might be surprised to find that there is respite care coverage out there.

We asked Kelli Davidson, author of "Taking Care of Mom and Dad - A Baby Boomers Resource Guide," and Mary Stehle a senior care advisor with how to start looking for care funding before you're desperate for it.

  1. Consider Your Options
    Before you give up on respite care, look into all your options. Respite care can happen in several ways and some cost nothing. Friends and family are often willing to help free of charge if you just ask, says Stehle. Hired care providers can come to your house or you can bring your loved one to a facility.

  2. Investigate Respite Care Funding Sources
    Finding funds for respite care isn't always easy and preplanning will save you time and anxiety when you need help. According to Davidson, one of your first calls should be to 2-1-1 (or go the website) where you can get local respite care information. They can also help you figure out when to apply for certain assistance and what offices to contact.

  3. Become Familiar with Your State and Federal Elder Care Offices
    If you're looking after an elderly person, most states have an Elder Care Office or an Area Agency on Aging (also known as AAA), says Davidson. Some states have respite care organizations or coalitions that help you find funding sources. For example, Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) combine the efforts of the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to help streamline access to respite and other care options.

  4. Find Out About Funding Programs
    Most states also offer some kind of coverage through Medicaid and some caregiver support programs have funding available. Generally these programs are known as 1915 (c) Home and Community-Based Waivers and offer funding for non-institutional relief, so they are in home or community settings. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center provides a compilation of state funding information for caregivers.

    State offices might run voucher programs where you receive a set amount of money to pay for respite care every quarter. You must apply at the beginning of every quarter, and you can't qualify for some other programs to receive this funding. It's often on a first-come, first-served basis, so make a note on your calendar to call with each new quarter.

  5. Take the Time to Make Phone Calls
    You might be able to use several funding sources to cover respite costs, but it'll take a few phone calls to find out what your loved one qualifies for. Medicare, although it doesn't offer coverage for respite care, will offer coverage as hospice relief. If your loved one has both Alzheimer's disease and a financial need, Medicaid might pick up part of the cost of respite care and a senior with Social Security disability benefits may qualify for some home health care. Other sources might include veterans' benefits, long-term care insurance and tax credits. In addition, caregiver support groups are great resources for finding funding.

  6. Don't Give Up
    If your application for a government-funded program is denied, Davidson says you can appeal the decision. But you have to do it quickly and send in the appeal within 10 days of receiving the denial letter. You may get a different answer with your appeal, but you may not. Either way, she says, it is worth a try.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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