Understanding Home Support Services
Call the Caregiver Support at 1 855 852-7784

Respite services

What is respite?

Respite may be defined as “all the activities […] designed to reduce the stress and physical and emotional fatigue” of caregivers. The goal of respite services is to release caregivers from the duties associated with their role. By being assured of the safety and well-being of their loved one, caregivers can take some time for themselves, to take part in activities outside the home, such as going out to eat with a friend, or going shopping or to a medical appointment, going on vacation or simply relaxing.

Respite services are essential to prevent or reduce caregiver burnout, improve their quality of life and allow the people they take of to continue living at home.

There are many types of respite. Here are the most common:

• Respite in a public seniors’ residence

• Respite through the Baluchon Alzheimer organization

• Day centre respite

• Respite at home

• Incidental respite

Respite in a public seniors’ residence

The public residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD) often provide respite services offered in a temporary housing unit for the person being cared for in order to help them stay at home. The minimum stay allowed is four days and the maximum is usually 21 days. There is also usually a limit per family of 90 days/year (three months). The basic fee is $15 to $17 per day, in addition to which there may be extra fees for additional services, such as cable. During their stay, the people in temporary housing enjoy the professional services of the CHSLD and have the option of participating in recreational activities.

Requests for temporary housing in a public facility must be made must be made to the social worker or nurse assigned to the file at the CLSC in the assisted person's territory of residence. If this is not the case, you must open a file at the access counter of the CLSC in your territory. The CLSC intervener will take care of the reservation, the needs assessment, the necessary documents and provide details on the application process and eligibility criteria. There are authorization documents that must be signed by the person being assisted/family and by a physician. Transportation is generally the responsibility of the family. People whose health condition requires significant care are generally not eligible.

Since temporary public housing services are often used by families over Christmas or during the summer, the resources available during these times are limited. Therefore, reservations should be made well in advance to get the preferred time and location.

*** In the event public resources are unavailable, there are also private temporary housing options. To find them, contact the private seniors’ residence agencies.


Respite through the Baluchon Alzheimer organization

Baluchon Alzheimer is a community organization that offers another type of long-term respite subsidized by the government. The services are provided at home and are specifically for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. During “baluchonnage” respite services, a qualified person called a “baluchonneuse” comes to live at the home of the care receiver 24 hours a day.

The minimum length of the service is four days and the maximum is 14 days. Fees are $15/day in most regions of Quebec. the person being helped must remain alone with the bundling machine (the presence of a third person remaining in the house is forbidden). However, visits from friends and family are recommended, and existing home support services from the CLSC continue.

To make a request, you must contact the key practitioner assigned to the file of the person being helped at the CLSC (social worker, nurse or other), who can make the required assessment and referral and provide the necessary information. Requests are taken by the organization a maximum of 5 months before the requested date.


Day centre

Most CIUSSS and CISSS services in Quebec offer respite services in their public day centres, sometimes also called drop-in respite (“halte-répits”). This type of respite is generally offered one day or sometimes two days a week. The care receiver enjoys an outing that usually includes adapted therapeutic exercises, social and recreational activities and a meal. Everything happens in a group and the participants are looked after by properly trained staff, such as special educators, nurses, social workers, rehabilitation therapists, occupational therapists and others. There is also often the presence of volunteers and/or trainees.

Specialized services are sometimes available, such as zootherapy, arts, massage therapy and more. Transportation may be provided by the day centre, but there is usually a charge this service, as well as and meals.

The day centre is often located in a public CHSLD, but in some regions, it may be offered in HLM (low income housing) or in a private residence to facilitate access for people.

The objectives of the day centre are to improve of maintain the independence of the care receiver, break their isolation and provide respite to caregivers. Usually, we find different groups tailored to the problems of the participants. People with major behavioural issues that continuous supervision are not usually eligible for this type of respite.

The day centre is integrated into the public directory of home support services of the CLSC. To have access to it, you must make a request to the intervener responsible for the file at the CLSC of the person being assisted or open a file for the person being assisted at the CLSC. The intervener will make the required assessment, inform the family of the services and eligibility criteria and make the referral. Requests are accepted based on the ISO-Smaf (functional autonomy measurement system) score of the care receiver. Once accepted, the file is added to a waiting list.

*** In the event that the public day centre is unavailable, there are day centres/drop-in centres offered by community organizations such as the Alzheimer Societies, seniors’ community centres, social economy enterprises, etc.


Respite at home services

Respite at home is a service whereby the care receiver is looked after in their own home for a few hours by a trained support worker. It is offered by the CLSCs in their range of public home support services (in the SAD or SAPA program).

This respite is very often paired with another home support service such as personal care or meals, and stimulation activities may be done with the care receiver. The maximum length of the CLSC respite at home service is usually three hours, but this can vary depending on the CLSC. There is also sometimes the possibility of obtaining blocks covering more time with an employee from the Service employment paycheque program. This service is covered by the RAMQ.

To register, you must apply to the person in charge of the file at the CLSC of the person being helped or open a file for the person being helped at the CLSC.This service is only offered in cases where the caregiver lives with the care receiver and cannot leave this person alone for safety reasons.

*** Respite at home is also offered by community organizations such as the Alzheimer Societies, which often have a stimulation/support at home program for older people with cognitive losses.

Caregiver associations may also offer this service, as may home support social economy enterprises (EÉSAD) and volunteer centres (centres d'action bénévole). Fees vary by organization and services may or may not be subsidized. People referred to community organizations by CLSCs may sometimes benefit from a subsidy/fee reduction. There is also the option of paying for respite services at home through a private home support agency or hiring an independent support worker.


Incidental respite

Respite at home, day centre respite or drop-in respite may also be provided as incidental respite while the caregiver participates in an organization’s activities (e.g., a support group or a caregiver training, a recreational activity in a volunteer centre). This type of respite is offered to allow the caregiver's participation in the organization's activities.

The CLSC, for example, may provide an incidental respite service to allow caregivers to attend their support group. Some seniors’ centres, volunteer centres, Alzheimer Societies or other community organizations also offer these services during their activities.

To find out whether an activity comes with incidental respite, the eligibility criteria and the fees, contact the organization in question.

Practical tools and resources


Société Alzheimer Rive-Sud. Accueil de jour, répit à domicile et halte-répit. 2017. [in French].

CSSS IUGS. Day Centre. 2020. 

Observatoire québécois des réseaux locaux de services. Comment rejoindre les personnes âgées en milieu rural? En offrant des services de centre de jour dans les résidences privées. 2010. [in French].

Centre intégré universitaire
de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal. Hébergement temporaire. 2020. [in French].