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Medical Respite Care

What Is Medical Respite Care?

Medical respite care is acute and post-acute care for persons experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. Unlike “respite” for caregivers, “medical respite” is short-term residential care that allows individuals experiencing homelessness the opportunity to rest in a safe environment while accessing medical care and other supportive services. Medical respite care, or recuperative care, is offered in a variety of settings including freestanding facilities, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and transitional housing.

Standards for Medical Respite Programs

In October 2016, a task force of medical respite care experts produced the first set of standards for medical respite programs. The task force was charged by the Respite Care Providers’ Network Steering Committee with developing standards that (1) align with other health industry standards related to patient care, (2) reflect the needs of the patients being served in the medical respite setting, (3) promote quality care and improved health, and (4) are achievable for a range of medical respite programs with varying degrees of resources.

The following standards are not intended to serve as a “one-size fits all” approach to delivering medical respite care. Rather, they serve as a framework to help medical respite programs operate safely, effectively, and seamlessly with local health care systems, and to promote program development and growth. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council plans to assist programs in meeting these standards through their training and technical assistance program.

Learn more about the standards for medical respite care programs. Contact Julia Dobbins for technical assistance on the standards.

Watch a Short Documentary on Medical Respite Care

Filmed by documentarian, John Baynard of the World Witness Project, this short video describes medical respite care from the perspective of consumers, health care for the homeless clinicians, and a physician from a hospital emergency department. Providers and advocates are encouraged to share the video with potential funders, partners, and policymakers. DVD copies of the video are available upon request.

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,625,741 with 20 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.

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