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The State of Measurement of Respite Care

Published: July 24, 2012
Authors: Ari Houser and Kathleen Ujvari, AARP Public Policy Institute


Respite care addresses one of the most pressing needs of family caregivers—temporary relief from caregiving tasks. Prior research has shown that respite is the service strategy most commonly offered to support family caregivers and is available in all 50 states, yet the amount of respite offered varies substantially from state to state and among programs within states.

The 2011 report Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers (the Scorecard), evaluated state long-term services and supports (LTSS) system performance on four dimensions, including support for family caregivers. As contributing authors to the Scorecard, produced by the AARP Public Policy Institute and funded by The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation, we were initially optimistic about including a measure of publicly funded respite in each state. However, we were not able to construct a measure that was complete, accurate, and comparable across states.

However, the data obtained for the year 2007 (the most recent for which data were available during the production of the Scorecard) provide perhaps the most complete compilation of respite spending across all three major funding sources: services provided through Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers and other HCBS programs, state-funded single-and-multiservice HCBS programs, and the National Family Caregiver Support Program, administered by the U.S. Administration on Aging. The data are presented and briefly discussed in this Insight on the Issues.