Finding and Pursuing Free Respite Care

Let go of your caregiver guilt and persevere to get the free respite care that you deserve.

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

  Need help finding care?

  Need help finding care?

Persistence and ingenuity will pay off when it comes to finding free respite. Perseverance will be rewarded by getting some well-deserved relief from your arduous caregiving duties. It's no joke that many family caregivers develop serious health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, and general "burn-out". Respite is widely recognized as a vital antidote for the stressful work of family caregiving.

Surprisingly, many family caregivers feel guilty seeking respite; some even regard themselves as unworthy of receiving assistance. Other times, caregivers are so engulfed in the day to day demands of their duties that arranging for respite gets put on backburner. Even for those family caregivers who recognize that they are in desperate need of respite, many presume that it is an unattainable luxury and will simply be too expensive.

Ready for respite? Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back for making a smart decision.

If you are a family caregiver that has finally acquiesced to getting respite, you have waved the white flag and surrendered to getting some well-earned, much needed respite care. You have taken the first step in acknowledging that respite is a good thing for both you, the caregiver, AND your loved ones. Often families struggle for years with the idea of calling in reinforcements, caring for their aging parents while juggling all the other responsibilities of life. Hats off to you for making this decision for respite assistance, as it understandably may not have been an easy one.

Free respite is reachable; you just need to know where to find it.

If you have resigned to needing respite but are still worried about affordability, you will be pleased to learn that respite is not only affordable, but it is often FREE! Federal, state, and local programs in addition to Veteran and Alzheimer's programs are but a handful of excellent resources that supply countless hours of respite to families all over the country. There are also a wide variety of community organizations, both faith-based and secular service-oriented groups, that aide families in need of respite.

Seek out respite by calling your Area Agency on Aging.

Begin your hunt for free respite care by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). You can search our directory to quickly find the AAA office that covers your zip code. Otherwise, call the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)to find your local agency. Although the AAAs are not well-known, they are truly an invaluable resource to connect your family with all types of eldercare including respite care. More importantly they can advise you of any local free programs and volunteer agencies that are available in your town.

Contact faith-based caregiving organizations.

Faith in Action and Interfaith Caregivers are volunteer caregiving programs at various locations in the country. Search the National Volunteer Caregiving Network (NVCN) for faith-based caregiving organizations and other volunteer programs in your area. Friendly visitor programs offer trained volunteers that come into your home for a couple of hours to free you up and allow time to yourself. They can assist with activities of daily living and provide support to you and your loved one.

Search for Senior Companions sponsored by Senior Corps.

The National and Community Service Senior Corps hosts "Senior Companions," a federal program that matches volunteers age 55 and over with aging folks in their communities who elect to age in place. Volunteers offer companionship and even sincere friendships with likeminded peers. They may assist with household tasks such as paying bills, shopping, and running errands. Senior Companions give respite to families by giving them needed time off from their duties. Search in your area for Senior Companions.

Respite for Veterans and their caregivers.

Respite care for Veterans is available through a variety of resources and avenues. If you are caring for a Veteran, check on the respite care provisions of the Veterans Administration (VA) Standard Medical Benefits Package. This provision allows for 30 days of free respite care per year for qualifying Veterans and caregivers. They can receive it in an inpatient, outpatient, or home setting. The respite can be provided in the Veteran's home, through an adult day care center, or through VA nursing homes called Community Living Centers. The family caregiver is able to take a break for a few hours or even a few days. Aside from the VA/TriCare assistance for Veterans there are many community and national organizations that offer free respite for Veteran's and their families including the YMCA, Wounded Warrior Project, and the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation).

Medicaid recipients qualify for free adult daycare and other in-home respite. Find out if your loved one is eligible.

Medicaid waivers provide the largest federal source of funding assistance for respite. Those who qualify for PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), can receive free adult day care. Respite via PACE, for elderly loved ones who can live safely at home, is recognized as an excellent resource. Search for PACE programs in your area. Medicaid waiver programs may also pay for adult day care services for those at risk for nursing home care; however, programs vary greatly from state to state. You will need to contact your county social service to find out whether your loved one qualifies for Medicaid in their area. Medicaid eligibility is based on income and each state develops their own waiver eligibility criteria and conditions for specific populations. The process to enroll in Medicaid may appear daunting at first; yet it is well worth the time and effort to enroll to your elderly loved one, so they can receive all the benefits available.

Don't overlook free respite for loved ones suffering with Alzheimer's disease.

Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's is especially difficult, making any and all forms of respite care extremely valuable. Find free respite for caregivers and your loved ones suffering with Alzheimer's via grants provided by the Alzheimer's Foundation for America to nonprofit organizations.

Look close to home for some of the best volunteers.

Explore whether your church or other local places of community outreach have volunteers committed to helping homebound folks and their families. Reach out to long time neighbors, your good friends, your parent's retired friends, and of course all willing and able family members. Don't overlook the possibility of finding respite opportunities and willing volunteers in places such as your county social services department, parks and recreation centers, senior centers, and post-secondary education centers.

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is a clearing-house for valuable free respite programs.

The mission of the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is to assist and promote the development of quality respite and to help families locate respite in their communities. Search online for free respite in your community using the National Respite locator.

Organize volunteer help via online resources.

There are an abundance of Facebook groups focusing on community volunteerism. You can even create your own group fairly quickly and easily for any said purpose, such as organizing respite. One website I found ingenious is Lotsa Helping Hands. A smart and practical website, it hosts an online community to organize volunteerism. It is cleverly promoted as "A Painless Way to Organize Help" and makes great use of the Help Calendar feature. You can post requests for support including things like meals for the family, rides to medical appointments, or just stopping by to visit. This allows members of your community to easily find ways to help, and "Lotsa" will send reminders and help coordinate logistics automatically. Another clever idea for family caregivers in need of respite!

Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, financial, professional, or medical advice or diagnosis or treatment.

Our operating costs are covered by advertising, online store sales, participating providers, and senior care partners. Learn more about how we make money.

© 1999-2023