Respite care provides relief to in-home caregivers of hospice patients; this is done by arranging a brief inpatient care period – up to 5 days. You can get respite care more than once, but only occasionally. Medicare pays for this just under the hospice benefit. Respite care lets the caregiver rest and recoup from the demands of providing in-home care. It is also appropriate when a patient’s medical condition warrants a short inpatient stay for symptoms not able to be managed in-home/

Medicare guidelines allow for more than one respite occurrence but never for more than five days at a time. The day of admission counts, but the day of discharge does not.

Common needs for inpatient respite?

  • The caregiver is physically or emotionally exhausted
  • The caregiver needs assistance with complex pain or other symptoms
  • Caregivers would like to attend an essential or required event
  • The caregiver is ill and needs to recover

Here are some important facts to note

  • Care must be prearranged by the hospice provider and approved
  • Continuous home care is not Medicare-approved respite care
  • Hospice respite care is not appropriate for patients in a nursing facility with 24/7 care

Talk with your hospice provider about respite rules and Medicare. They have experience with the sometimes complex state and Medicare rules surrounding hospice respite care.


Those who take time to recover are better hospice caregivers. They are less likely to suffer burnout and have more time and energy to devote to their loved ones. Sometimes it is essential to give yourself time to rediscover or learn a new hobby or reconnect with friends.

Options if you are not eligible for Medicare-covered respite care:

  • An Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) might be able to connect you with local services
  • Adult day services often provide supervision and meals during the day
  • Respite care organizations may be able to help you find care at a low or reduced cost.
  • For assistance and counseling, contact your State Health Insurance Program (SHIP).