An Overview of Mental Health Respite Care

What is it?

Whether during a crisis or when caregivers need more support, respite care is available to families caring for their loved one’s mental health. This care makes it possible for caregivers to manage their health and well-being by having a break and receiving the support they need.

Read more about respite care and what it provides in this overview.

What is Mental Health Respite Care? - Illustration by Jiaqi Zhou

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

What Is Mental Health Respite Care?

Mental health respite care is a system of services offering a temporary break between a caregiver and their loved one with mental illness. Trained volunteers or staff can come to your home or let your loved one stay at a daycare center or residential facility. Services can be arranged in advance or available during an emergency or crisis.

What Mental Health Respite Provides

Mental health respite care gives caregivers and other family members time to tend to self-care and other responsibilities. The individual with mental illness also has opportunities to interact with others safely and participate in planned activities.

Respite for Caregivers of Adults

Respite care includes planned in-home services that can last for an hour, a day, or overnight. Adult daycare centers for older adults operate on weekdays during daytime hours. Residential programs such as group homes, hospitals, and nursing homes can provide planned or emergency overnight services.

Special respite services for youth caregivers of adults may be available in your area as well. 

Respite for Caregivers of Kids

Respite services for caregivers of kids are similar to programs for adults. In-home, daycare, and residential options are available for children with mental illness as well. Programs include age-appropriate activities.

Respite daycare for kids is different from traditional child daycare because it is provided on a short-term basis.

Types of Respite

Several types of respite care programs may be available near you. Assess your and your loved one’s needs and means to determine the best options for your situation.

Crisis Home Support Care

Crisis home support care places your loved one with a screened “professional family." The “family members” provide emotional and practical support. Mental health professionals visit daily to plan treatment. 

Crisis respite apartments and centers

Crisis respite centers and apartments provide a welcoming environment in which your loved one can stay for 24 hours. Crisis workers or volunteers observe and support the patient until stabilized and referred to other services. Peer support specialists may offer encouragement and assistance.

Crisis In-Home Support Care

Crisis in-home support provides the same services as respite centers at home. This option can be suitable if your loved one doesn’t need to be separated from their everyday surroundings.

Who Delivers Respite?

Many caregiver support programs include respite assistance. Your local Agency on Aging may administer the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP). Nonprofits and private agencies provide respite services for all ages at no cost or for a fee.

These facilities and organizations offer mental health respite services in many communities:

  • Alcohol and drug rehab facilities
  • Sober living houses
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Religious establishments
  • Community centers
  • Easterseals

Cost Estimates

The Genworth Cost of Care Survey offers these national averages for respite care:

  • In-home care: $23.50 per hour
  • Adult daycare: $74 per day
  • Assisted living facility: $141 per day
  • Nursing home: semiprivate room - $255 per day, private room - $290 per day

What Occurs During Respite Care?

In-home respite care providers can render personal care or help with meal preparation, housekeeping, and errands. Skilled healthcare professionals can offer specialized medical assistance if needed.

Adult and youth daycare centers provide a safe, supportive environment with meals and snacks. Trained volunteers or behavioral specialists coordinate lessons, games, and social activities.

Ways to Qualify

Your or your loved one's primary care doctor or therapist might refer your family to local or state agencies for mental health respite services. Family Voices chapters can also help you find out which services your child may qualify for. 

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 has expanded funding for mental health crisis intervention programs for Medicaid recipients. Check with your state Medicaid agency about respite care coverage under this provision.


Mental health respite care gives you and your loved one essential support and relief. Some services send a trained volunteer or professional to your home to provide care. In other situations, your loved one could stay in a facility during the day or for an extended time. Social services can arrange or point you to respite programs in your area.

A Word From Verywell

The responsibilities of caregiving can increase your risk for developing physical, mental, and financial problems. Even if you feel that no one will care for your loved one as well as you, you need rest to maintain your own well-being. It’s not selfish or neglectful to take a break.

Consider beforehand how you will use respite time to make the most of it. Familiarize yourself with providers, particularly those who offer emergency services. Please reach out for support before you feel out of control or burned out. Respite care can help you and your loved one diffuse a volatile situation or regroup to face life together again.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does respite care last?

    The length of service for respite care depends on your needs and the program's stipulations. Respite services can last from an hour to a day or several with in-home care. Daycare may last for four to eight hours. Residential care may last overnight or several days or weeks.

  • How frequently can you use respite care?

    When paying privately, you can hire respite care as often as you want. Medicare recipients can have one five-day respite period with each billing cycle. For other situations, each agency sets its own limits for using their service.

  • What are the costs of respite care?

    Respite care costs depend on the type of services you use, the agency, and how long you use the services. Providers charge hourly, daily, or weekly rates, which vary greatly. Most insurance plans do not typically cover the costs for residential mental health treatment facilities. However, many programs try to keep out-of-pocket expenses as low as possible.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Respite care programs.

  2. American Association of Caregiving Youth. Caregiving youth project – comprehensive prioritized free services.

  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Crisis services

  4. Administration for Community Living. National family caregiver support program.

  5. Easterseals. Mental health services.

  6. Genworth. Cost of care survey.

  7. Family Voices. Supports for families of children and youth with special health care needs: a quick reference guide to family-led organizations.

  8. CMS addresses substance use, mental health crisis care for those with Medicaid.

  9. Ploeg J, Markle-Reid M, Valaitis R, et al. Web-based interventions to improve mental health, general caregiving outcomes, and general health for informal caregivers of adults with chronic conditions living in the community: rapid evidence reviewJ Med Internet Res. 2017;19(7):e263. doi:10.2196/jmir.7564

  10. ARCH National Respite Network. ABCs of respite: a consumer guide for family caregivers.

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  12. National Institute on Aging. What is respite care?.