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Respite Care Services for Families With Special Needs

Taking care of a family member with special needs can be more than a full-time job. As a parent and/or caregiver, it’s natural to want to give your all to your loved one, but everyone needs a break, whether that’s to go to an appointment, run errands, or just have time for yourself.

Respite care provides that temporary break by putting your family member in someone else’s care. It can be hard to leave your child, teen or other family member with special needs, but taking time away from caregiving duties is essential to your well-being and benefits your loved one as well.

What is respite care?

Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers — anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Respite care can be arranged daily, weekly or as needed.

Care may be provided:

  • In the home through an agency or from a caregiver you find and train yourself
  • In the caregiver’s home
  • In a facility, such as a hospital or residential facility
  • At an adult day center, school, camp, faith-based or volunteer agency

Consider what’s best for you and your family member when deciding where respite care will take place. In-home care offers convenience — everything you need is already there, and you don’t have to worry about transportation. Your family member may feel more comfortable being home, too.

Respite care outside the home can offer your loved one more stimulation by exposing them to new people, experiences, and surroundings. It may also be a good choice if you want to stay home yourself during your time off from caregiving responsibilities.

Where can I find respite care?

As a military family, you may qualify for respite care for your child or teen through Child Care Aware. This organization has partnered with the military services to provide respite care to families with children up to age 18 who have special needs and are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program. Families enrolled in EFMP receiving respite care within their service branch must meet eligibility requirements and follow program regulations about the location and hours.

Other places to look for information and respite care options for children and adults include:

  • Your state’s Lifespan Respite Program, if available. Lifespan Respite Programs are run by state agencies to provide community-based respite for family caregivers.
  • The National Respite LocatorThis online tool can link you to information on respite funding and caregiver supports in your state.
  • State Respite Coalitions. These membership organizations represent people with disabilities. Some of these organizations provide training and respite vouchers.
  • Nonprofit organizations related to your family member’s condition may be able to refer you to respite services in your community.
  • A “co-op” in which you and other families take turns watching each other’s loved ones. Family support groups are a good place to meet others interested in forming a respite care co-op.

Where can I find help paying for respite care?

There are several options where you may find help paying for respite care.

  • Child Care Aware provides respite care to children of eligible military families enrolled in EFMP.
  • TRICARE Extended Care Health Option offers a respite care benefit to eligible military families.
  • Medicaid waivers cover the cost of respite care if your family member qualifies. Check with your state’s Medicaid office to learn more.

Your installation’s Exceptional Family Member Family Support can help you with many aspects of caring for a family member with special needs, including navigating respite care. You can also schedule a special needs consultation 24/7 by calling 800-342-9647 or through live chat. If you’re overseas, view international calling options.

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