Respite Care

What is Respite Care?

Caring for a family member who is ill or has special needs can be physically and emotionally draining for the caregiver. Respite care is a system of planned or unplanned temporary relief for caregivers. It gives caregivers the opportunity to take a break and restore their energy, knowing that their loved one is in the hands of a qualified person who understands the individual needs of each client.

How Does Respite Care Work?

Respite Care can work differently depending on your needs. Respite care can be provided in your home or in a respite care facility or special needs camp. Whether the respite care occurs in the home or elsewhere, it is important for the caregiver to use the break to rest and recharge his or her emotional, mental, and physical energy.

Ideas for relaxation and stress reduction strategies can be found on RedTreehouse.org and elsewhere.

What is Emergency Respite Care?

Respite Care is usually planned in advance. However, sometimes emergencies arise and you may need to seek out unplanned respite care. A good way to handle this is to have a respite care facility identified in advance for your child or young adult. This will relieve the burden of going through a search process for a respite facility during the emergency.

Finding a Respite Care Facility that is Right for You

There are many options and types of respite care to fit the needs and wishes of both the caregiver and the loved one. It is important to understand your  needs as a caregiver and the needs of your loved one. There are tools and resources available to help you as look for and evaluate respite options

Respite care options include:

  • a caregiver who comes to your home for a few hours daily, weekly, or as needed
  • drop-off day programs (at a school, health care facility, or faith-based or volunteer agency) that provide activities
  • daily, overnight, or weekly respite programs offered by a community-based agency, host family, residential facility, or sleepaway camp

It is also important to remember to utilize your own social and emotional support system. For example, another option that families have chosen is respite care offered through "co-ops." A “co-op” is when families of children with special needs each take turns caring for each other’s children. A good way to meet families like yours is through local support groups. Remember also to consider asking your extended family, friends, or neighbors, for help. Be sure that those caring for your child have the training, support, and confidence they need to be successful.

What Funding is Available for Respite Care?

Funding sources and eligibility vary based on the individual, family, needs and location. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center maintains a directory of sources of respite funding and caregiver support by state. This table of other Ohio sources is also a helpful tool.

Medicaid waivers provide the largest federal source of funding assistance for respite. Each state develops their own waiver eligibility criteria and conditions for specific populations. In Ohio, Medicaid will cover respite care for your loved one. There are certain limitations including: a limit on the number of hours of respite care per month, yearly limits, and required prior authorization. Medicaid will not cover respite care for children in foster care. It may be a good idea to have a discussion with your state Medicaid agency to learn more about what types of respite care facilities are available for you or your loved one. HINT: Because people will often spend a significant amount of time on the waiting list before being approved for a Medicaid Waiver Program, contact your County Board of Developmental Disabilities to see if they can help you with funding for respite care while you are on the waiting list.

Respite Care for Foster Families

Respite care is not limited to families who have loved ones with medical needs. Respite care may also be used by foster families; foster and kinship caregivers may benefit from  time to rest and regain energy while caring for the foster youth. Respite care may also be used in times of emergency or crisis. It is important to discuss respite care with your foster family’s caseworker to determine the best option for both the youth and the caregiver. Some agencies provide family preservation respite care options.


This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.  The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Lead researcher/author: Ricardo Vidal, J.D. Candidate, 2019, RedTreehouse.org Legal Intern

Missy Toms