New Respite Program Offers Select Families Discounted Caregiver Relief

Despite the physical and emotional demands of caregiving, financial constraints keep many people from seeking outside help for their loved ones. But a program out of California aims to offer certain family caregivers relief.

San Diego County has allocated $1 million toward respite care for middle-class family caregivers who look after relatives with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The pilot program would offer eligible caregivers vouchers for three respite care options — in-home care, adult day care or short-term assisted living care — at half the price it cost otherwise.

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Services will be split between two local contractors, with the goal being to start offering respite care through the program in April.

One option where eligible families can use their respite vouchers is the Glenner Town Square, the inaugural Senior Helpers adult day care franchise Home Health Care News previously highlighted. The day care is designed to model a town square from the 1950s, with the goal being to bring back memories from the dementia clients’ youth.

Normally, the service would cost $95 per day, but thanks to the voucher program, middle-class residents — who make too much to qualify for state aid but too little to be able to comfortably pay for services out of pocket — can take advantage of the day care for half of that.

While the voucher program is unique to San Diego County, since the Chula Vista, California-based Town Square location opened last August, the franchise model has gained steam across the country.

“We now have a location that’s being completed in Baltimore. We have a new franchisee that will be opening later this year in Louisville, [Kentucky]. We have a franchise candidate that’s buying 10 [Town Squares] in Chicago [to open] over the next 5 to 10 years,” Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers, previously told HHCN. “We also have two other candidates, one in New Jersey and one in California, that are ready to sign and move forward.”

Respite care — temporary relief care designed to give regular caregivers a break — is becoming increasingly important, as the population continues to skew older.

In fact, one in five American adults currently assists an older family member in some way, often with household chores or financial support, according to an Ipsos poll conducted in October 2018 on behalf of RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets LLC.

San Diego County’s move to help families finance respite care is part of a larger trend. For example, this year, about 13% of Medicare Advantage plans cover family caregiver support services such as respite care or counseling under newly allowed supplemental benefits.

Additionally, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has long pushed for federally funded respite programs, arguing they help keep seniors at home longer by relieving burden and fatigue.

Advocates of the San Diego program have touted similar benefits.

“The research finds that people don’t need a lot of respite hours, but when they get them, the chances that they’re going to call 911 when they just get overwhelmed go down, and the chances that they’re going to be able to keep caring for their loved one in their home, rather than putting them in very expensive residential care, goes up,” Susan DeMarois, California government affairs director for the Alzheimer’s Association, told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who championed the program, says the $1 million effort is the beginning of a bigger initiative.

“The goal would be to increase this program into the future and maybe even encourage other opportunities,” Jacob said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called for the creation of a new “master plan on aging” during his first State of the State address in February.

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