Adult Day Care vs Respite CareSkip to content

Adult Day Care vs Respite Care

Published: Jun 4, 2020. Last Updated: Apr 29, 2022.

Adult day care and respite care are community-based services provided outside the home, but generally to seniors who live in their own homes. The concepts of adult day care and respite care are very similar. Both are intended to give regular caregivers a break so they can go to work, go on vacation or simply have some time to themselves. These services are often utilized by family members acting as caregivers.

Adult Day Care

Most adult day care facilities can be divided into two groups: social day care and health day care. Social day care centers may provide some limited personal care and assistance, but generally don’t provide any healthcare services. Health day care facilities provide both social services as well as a variety of healthcare services, including nursing care and even therapy. Some facilities are even capable of accepting seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia[1]

Adult day cares are typically open Monday through Friday and possibly weekends during normal business hours. Most facilities have both part-day and full-day programs. They are not open over-night and they do not allow seniors to reside at their facilities. Services provided by adult day care facilities include, but are not limited to[2]:

  • Personal Care
  • Meals
  • Transportation (to and from the facility)
  • Medication Management
  • Health Monitoring
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Health Screening
  • Social Services
  • Dementia Care

It should be noted that many of the more advanced medical services above, including nursing and therapy, may only be offered by adult day care centers affiliated with hospitals or skilled nursing facilities. 

Respite Care

Respite care is a much broader category than adult day care. It basically encompasses any form of care provided on a temporary basis, typically to relieve a family member who is acting as the regular care giver. To this extent, adult day care itself is arguably a form of respite care. However, many other facilities including assisted living and nursing homes also provide respite care. The scope of services provided will generally be proportionate to the facility where you receive the services. For instance, a nursing home is capable of providing more advanced healthcare services than an assisted living or an adult day care. Some home health agencies also provide respite care in the form of temporary nurses or home health aids while your caregiver is unavailable. All of these facilities other than adult day care can generally provide the respite care 24 hours per day if necessary on a short-term basis usually lasting either a few days or even a few weeks. 

Paying for the Costs of Adult Day Care or Respite Care

Adult day care generally costs around $70 per day, with health day care costing slightly more than social day care. Considering you receive a full day of services for this price, this tends to be less expensive than even home healthcare and costs only a fraction of the cost of institutional care, such as assisted living or a nursing home (which can be $250 per day or more). Respite care pricing tends to depend on the type of facility you are receiving it from. In other words, if you are receiving respite care from a nursing home, expect to pay $250 per day or more. Respite care from an assisted living community may be slightly more than half of that price. 

For seniors who so not require full-time supervision and are looking for some additional care and socialization on weekdays, adult day care is often an excellent option. However, like most services, it has its limitations. Since these places are not open on nights and weekends, they are typically more of a supplement to home healthcare than an independent form of care. Similarly, respite care provides a higher level of services, but generally without the cost savings and only on a temporary basis. Nevertheless, for a senior receiving a relatively high level of home healthcare from a family member who is going on vacation may benefit from a few weeks of respite care in a nursing home. In some cases, respite care may be able to prevent that senior from needing to move into that nursing home on a full-time basis. 


  1. Pratt, John R. Long-Term Care – Managing Across the Continuum (4th Ed.) (2016). Jones & Bartlett Learning, 202-03.^
  2. *Id. *at 202-04.^

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About the Author

Nick Lata


Elder Guide LLC

Nick Lata is one of the co-founders of Elder Guide. He is a licensed attorney who has advised many seniors on a variety of issues over the years. Nick has dedicated countless hours to better understanding the long-term care decision making process and the myriad of complex issues that come with it, ranging from senior living options to Medicaid and other government benefits. He has sought out advice from hundreds of attorneys, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, accountants, financial planners and other professionals in his effort to produce the most informative content for Elder Guide users.