Caring for a family member with special needs can be exhausting. Caregivers may require a few hours away to address personal business, or may want to take the family on a vacation. Occasional respite care helps to relieve the stress of caring for a disabled child and strengthens family stability by providing a substitute for the caregiver for a designated period of time. Self-care opportunities, such as taking advantage of respite care, is vital for caregivers to maintain their own well being, which in turn helps them successfully care for their exceptional family member.
What is respite care?
Respite care provides temporary relief to families and caregivers by providing a substitute to take over some of their duties, giving them short-term breaks. Respite care services are offered from infancy to adulthood and can range in duration from a few hours to months, depending on the needs of the family and the type of respite care program available in a particular community. This type of support provides the family with rest and relaxation, improves the family's ability to cope with daily responsibilities, decreases a family's feelings of isolation, and makes it possible for individuals with disabilities to establish their own identities and enrich their growth and development. Services can be provided in the Exceptional Family Member's (EFM's) home, in the respite caregiver's home, or in a care facility. Most respite care programs offer services to families on a sliding fee scale with hourly and/or daily rates.
Where can I find respite care for families with special needs in the military
You may be able to receive respite care through the following programs:
- TRICARE's Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) Respite Care. Through TRICARE ECHO, families may receive short-term care for a patient for a maximum of sixteen hours per month for any month a family member is receiving ECHO benefits. Unused hours may not be banked for future use. In-home respite care services are meant to be a relief for parents to be deployed, be employed, seek employment, or pursue education. ECHO respite care services are provided by TRICARE-authorized home health agencies. More information is available on the TRICARE ECHO website.
- Army Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Respite Care Program. Eligibility for the Army's Respite Care Program is based on EFMP enrollment status, the EFM's medical or educational condition, and deployment needs. Families can receive up to forty hours of respite care per month for each certified EFM. More information is available on the Army EFMP Respite Care website.
- Marine Corps EFMP Respite Care Program. The Marine Corps EFMP Respite Care Program provides temporary rest periods for family members responsible for the regular care of persons with disabilities. Eligible families enrolled in EFMP can receive up to forty hours of respite care per month. More information is available by contacting the installation EFMP Coordinator.
- Navy EFMP Respite Care Program. Navy families enrolled in EFMP and have children from birth to eighteen years of age labeled as Category IV or V may receive up to forty hours of respite care per child per month near living on or near Navy installations in the continental United States. More information is available on the Navy EFMP Respite Care website.
- Air Force EFMP Respite Care Program. The Air Force EFMP Respite Care Program provides a break to families who care for an ill or disabled family member living in the household. Eligible families may receive up to 20 hours of respite care per month for each eligible child (up to 18 years old), depending on their condition and the Airman’s deployment status. More information is available on the AFAS Respite Care website.
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) Respite Care Program. The CGMA program provides a break for a few hours a week or month to eligible Coast Guard clients who have twenty-four-hour responsibility to care for an ill or disabled family member living in the household. Assistance for respite care is based on both the need for respite and financial need. More information is available on the CGMA Medical and Dental programs website.
- Military Child Development Programs. Although the military child development programs are not required to provide respite care for military families with special needs, families can register with the Children and Youth office for assistance in locating an appropriate source of care. The cost varies based on the hourly care rate at each installation and parents are responsible for paying for care.
Where can I find respite care in the community for families with special needs?
In addition to military-provided respite care programs, you may be able to find assistance through the following community-based resources:
- The Arc of the United States. The Arc advocates for the rights and full participation of all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc provides numerous programs and services including respite care. More information is available on the Arc website.
- ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center assists and promotes the development of quality respite and crisis care programs in the United States; helps families locate respite and crisis care services in their communities; and serves as a strong voice for respite in all forums. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center website provides a respite locator, consumer information, events calendar, contact information for state respite coalitions, and links to products and publications.
- Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Respite Childcare. Provided through the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Outreach Initiative, participating YMCA locations may provide up to sixteen hours of free respite child care per month per child up to the age of twelve for authorized military families. The ASYMCA Respite Childcare website provides information on the program, eligibility requirements, and a tool to find participating YMCAs.
- Easter Seals Respite Care Program. Easter Seals Respite Care Program gives participants an opportunity to engage in social and recreational activities while their families get a much-needed break from the demands of care giving. More information is available on the Easter Seals Respite Care Program website.