What to Do When You Need a Break From Caregiving

Woman at library.

Family caregivers often provide care for their veteran for hours at a time or even around the clock. Although family and friends may regularly give you short periods of time off, sometimes you may need more. Taking breaks is key to maintaining your role as a caregiver. This is where respite care comes in.

What is respite care?

Respite care is a service that pays for someone to come to a service member's or veteran's home, or for the service member or veteran to attend a program, while their caregiver takes a break. Respite care can:

  • Allow caregivers to run errands, go out of town, attend appointments or just relax
  • Help with medication management and daily living activities (like bathing and dressing)
  • Be provided for several hours to several days, based on the caregiver's needs and the service member's eligibility for services

What are my options for respite care?


care of yourself when your spouse has a combat stress injury.

Several respite care options are available, some in the home and some that provide your wounded warrior with a stay in a care facility. Researching respite care in your area and talking with representatives about eligibility and services can help you feel more comfortable with the respite care process. It can also help you decide which program is right for your family.

TRICARE Active Duty

  • The TRICARE Extended Care Health Option benefit can give caregivers of active duty service members a break through the respite care benefit.
  • Service members may receive up to 16 hours a month when receiving other authorized benefits, or up to 40 hours a week if homebound.


  • Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers can provide up to 30 days of respite care in a calendar year under the TRICARE veteran benefits.
  • Respite services may be provided at VA medical centers, in a community setting or in the veteran's home.
  • Respite care is a covered benefit for all veterans enrolled in the VA health care system or who are eligible for VA health care.

VA Adult Day Health Care Programs

  • Adult day health care services through VA are for veterans who need skilled services, case management, and/or assistance with activities of daily living (such as bathing and dressing).
  • Veterans may also be eligible if they're isolated or if their caregiver is experiencing a burden.
  • The programs are provided at VA medical centers, state Veterans Affairs homes or through various community organizations.
  • Veterans can attend day services up to five days a week if they meet the clinical need for services and space is available.

What are some other resources?


when to ask for help.

If you need more assistance, use the following resources to help you connect to services:

  • National Resource Directory — The National Resource Directory is a searchable database that can help you find more national, state and local resources that support service members and their caregivers with programs for long-term needs.
  • Department of Defense Military Caregiver PEER Forums — Monthly military caregiver PEER forums on installations are also an option. Virtual PEER forums are available for caregivers in remote locations or who can't attend in person.

Serving as the caregiver for an injured loved one can be emotionally and physically taxing. Though you have a deep commitment to caring for your loved one, it's OK to ask for a break. Respite care options can lighten your load and keep family relationships healthy. Remember that stopping to take care of yourself isn't a selfish decision — it's a decision that makes you a stronger caregiver for your loved one.



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