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The word "respite" means to take a break: to have a respite from the daily challenges of caring for a child or a parent with special needs.  It can be planned for a few hours or for as long as a weekend.  Respite can take place in your home or temporarily in another setting, such as a day center or in the community.  Respite can take place regularly or intermittently, as you need it; however, it does need to be planned in advance.  It gives a break for both the caregiver and the person with a disability. 

Respite for the caregiver can mean:

  • time to get out of the house, visit with friends, or have some quiet time alone
  • time to go to the store or library or run errands
  • an evening out
  • a weekend getaway
  • time at home to do some tasks while someone else is being the responsible caregiver

Respite for the consumer can mean:

  • being in another setting
  • socializing with other people
  • time for a favorite activity
  • time to go to a playground, pizza parlor, bowling, play bingo, or apple picking
  • talking with someone else for a change

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How is respite provided?
For children's respite, there is one agency in each of the three regions of the state that coordinates and provides in-home respite services.  Some respite agencies allow families to choose people they know, such as a friend, neighbor or relative, to provide in-home respite service.  Since the respite agencies are ultimately responsible for the respite worker, they may require that the family-selected person attend training to be a certified respite worker. 

For adults, there are many more agencies and day facilities that coordinate or provide respite (see "Respite Providers for Adult Programs").  These day centers offer social activities, meals and health promotion activities.  Basically, the agencies hire and train the respite workers, whether services are provided in your home or in a day facility. 


How much respite can I get?
After you apply for respite and are found to be eligible, you can then coordinate your respite needs with the respite agency. Generally, you will be given an allocation of respite hours over a period of time, such as 20 hours per month or 20 hours for three months. The amount of the allocation depends on the level of need and the funds that are available to the agency to provide respite services. Respite agencies generally coordinate the allocations with families over a certain period of time; after that time, generally three months, any unused respite time is lost.


How skilled are respite workers?
Children's respite workers are required to complete a 20 hour classroom training program. They are taught very basic skills including first aid. Some children's respite workers may be more qualified and may be certified as behavioral specialists or have other specialty skills.  The respite agency determines the level of care that is needed and the level of respite worker payment that can range from $7 to $14 per hour.  The respite agency pays the respite worker directly or reimburses you after the service is provided.  Some, not all, respite agencies conduct Maine-based and/or national background searches on respite worker applicants.

Adult day center providers are trained and licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Some day centers that provide health promotion activities have staff who are more highly skilled.  It is always wise to ask the facility about their staff training before engaging services.


What respite does not include: 

  • crisis services
  • hospice services (for those who are terminally ill)
  • regular day care  (while parents or caregivers are working)
  • therapy, nursing services and other rehabilitative services


What is the process to apply for respite?
It depends.  Each program is different.  If you just want respite services it is simpler.  If you need other services, it can be more complex.  However, it always involves an assessment of the consumer's needs.

You may apply directly to adult day centers that provide respite; for other programs you must first apply through the state agency.  For children's services, you may apply directly to one of three community providers.  The eligibility and application processes are explained for each program in this toolkit.  


What does it cost?
Some programs are free; others require a small co-payment.

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Taking a Break!  |  What is Respite?  |  Things You Should Know About Respite Services
Respite Programs at a Glance  |  Respite Programs for Children  |  Respite Programs for Adults
Questions to Ask Your Respite Agency | Other Respite Resources for Children and Adults
Respite Providers for Adults