National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Respite Care

In this article...
  • Learn more about how the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Respite Care program can provide caregivers of older adults with extra support.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is a government-funded program created under the Older Americans Act. It’s funded through the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration of Aging but is typically managed by local Area Agencies on Aging. Since this program is managed at the local level, eligibility, benefits and limitations may vary by location.

There are five primary parts of the NFCSP program:

  • Caregiver Information and Resources
  • Assistance Gaining Access to Services
  • Caregiver Support and Counseling
  • Respite Care Services
  • Supplemental Support

While all parts of the NFCSP program are designed to provide extra support to caregivers, this guide will specifically cover the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Respite Care services.

How Does National Family Caregivers Support Program (NFCSP) Respite Care Help Families?

The NFCSP’s respite care program is specifically designed to give caregivers much-needed breaks throughout the year. The program provides full-time caregivers with the funds or resources necessary to hire a temporary trained caregiver to attend to the senior’s needs over a set number of hours. This service, in turn, gives the caregiver time to relax, attend special events, run errands or take a short vacation.

These respite services are often provided in the senior’s home setting but can also occur in an adult daycare center or any type of overnight residential facility where 24/7 caregiving services are not provided. These temporary caregivers can handle a wide range of at-home services, such as meal preparation, companionship, light housekeeping and assistance with activities of daily living.

While respite care services are not a stand-alone solution for covering senior care costs, the extra support may make caring for a senior more manageable for caregivers. Additionally, families should consider other assistance programs, such as adult day care, transportation assistance, food deliveries and tax credits. The combination of these services may enable seniors to remain living in their homes longer.

Who’s Eligible for the NFCSP Respite Care Program?

While all local Area Agencies on Aging have their own eligibility guidelines for the NFCSP respite care program, below is a look at the most common requirements.

Age Requirement

In most cases, the senior requiring care must be over the age of 60 or 65. These age limits may be lowered for seniors struggling with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related illness.

Health Status

Nearly all local agencies require the senior needing care to have a documented disability or be unable to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as grooming, hygiene and feeding. Seniors diagnosed with certain health conditions, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer’s, may automatically qualify for services.

Financial Limits

The NFCSP program prioritizes low-income families that may be unable to afford respite care services without financial assistance. Many local agencies only approve families that fall below the 200% Federal Poverty Level. However, since each agency sets its own requirements, it’s recommended to contact your local agency directly for exact income guidelines.

In most cases, the senior requiring care cannot be receiving any other type of financial support for respite care services, such as through the VA office or long-term care insurance.

Caregiver Requirements

There are also set requirements for the full-time caregiver requesting respite care services. First, the caregiver must be over the age of 18. Second, the caregiver must spend at least 40 hours per week providing direct care to the senior requiring care. Third, the caregiver cannot be receiving payment for the services provided.

How to Apply for NFCSP Respite Care Benefits

Seniors or caregivers who are interested in receiving respite care services should start by contacting their local Area Agencies on Aging office. Most agencies start the process by conducting a phone interview to determine eligibility and to explain the program.

The agency will also require proof of income and may request a doctor’s note explaining the senior’s medical condition and limitations. Finally, the agency may conduct a home visit to ensure the home environment is safe and suitable for respite care services.

How Are NFCSP Respite Care Program Benefits Dispersed?

Local Area Agencies on Aging offer NFCSP respite care benefits either through a voucher system or by direct payments to the caregivers. With the voucher system, the caregiver is provided a voucher for a set number of respite hours or a set dollar amount. The caregiver can then select a trained respite caregiver from the agency’s list of qualified professionals. With direct payments, the caregiver can typically select a respite caregiver of their choice, but they are responsible for paying the temporary caregiver with the funds received by the agency.

What Are the Costs and Limitations?

Each agency sets a limit for how many respite care hours or what dollar amount a caregiver can receive per year. Additionally, local agencies may require the senior or caregiver to pay a certain co-pay, such as 10% of the overall costs. For example, if the agency is providing $500 in respite care services, the caregiver or senior may be required to pay a $50 copay.