The Lifespan Respite Care Act (P.L. 109-442)

What Is Respite?

Respite provides temporary relief for family caregivers from the ongoing responsibility of caring for an individual with special needs, or who may be at risk of abuse or neglect. Research suggests that caregivers who receive respite report improved physical and emotional health (Theis, Moss, & Pearson, 1994). In addition, respite can prevent or delay more costly out-of-home placements, reduce the risk of abuse or neglect, and help keep family members safe and stable (ARCH National Respite Network, 2007; Cowen, 1998; Jackson, 2001). Research indicates that respite is among the most frequently requested family support services (Evercare & National Alliance for Caregiving, 2006). However, quality respite care is often unaffordable and inaccessible to many family caregivers in need.

What Is the Lifespan Respite Care Act?

The Lifespan Respite Care Act (P.L. 109-442) was sponsored by Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Warner (R-VA) and Representatives Ferguson (R-NJ) and Langevin (D-RI) and signed into law in December 2006 to establish a program to assist family caregivers in accessing affordable and high-quality respite care. Specifically, this new law authorizes:

  • lifespan respite programs at the state and local levels

  • planned and emergency respite for family caregivers

  • training/recruitment of respite workers and volunteers

  • provision of information to caregivers about respite/support services

  • assistance for caregivers in gaining access to such services

  • establishment of a National Resource Center on Lifespan Respite Care

Lifespan Respite Care Act Funding Status

The Lifespan Respite Care Act was signed into law in 2006 and authorizes Congress to spend up to $53.3 million in Fiscal Year 2009 on this important initiative; however, the program has not yet received any funding. The Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Agreement included at least $26 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Act, while the Fiscal Year 2009 House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill included $5 million and the Senate companion appropriations bill included no funding for the program.

APA Recommendation

In order to ensure that family caregivers receive the critical resources authorized under the Lifespan Respite Care Act, APA strongly urges Congress to appropriate full funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act at the authorized level of $53.3 million for Fiscal Year 2009.