Respite care is a boon to caregivers responsible for looking after people with mental and physical disabilities. It enables caregivers to have time for themselves to get tasks done that they ordinarily could not do or to rest from the burden of providing care. Many respite centers are run by nonprofit, charitable organizations or religious groups, but some centers are designed to make a profit. State and local governments may require some types of centers and the people who work in them to be licensed. Government entities sometimes provide funds for their operation, especially if they have a treatment component. Centers usually charge a fee for their services, ordinarily on a sliding scale based on the patient's ability to pay.

Develop a plan for your center that details the disabled persons you intend to care for and the age ranges you expect to serve. If you do not already have an organization or company, explain how you can start one or obtain the support of one that already exists. The possible organizational structures are numerous, such as starting a profit or nonprofit corporation, obtaining space and support from a religious group or hospital, or organizing caregivers to form a cooperative.

Research the community you intend to serve to determine the need for the type of respite care you want to provide. A geographically dispersed population of disabled persons in a rural area may require handicapped-accessible vehicles, whereas a center in a metropolitan area recreation department building may require entry ramps constructed. Interview potential caregivers to determine the types of care they desire for their family member. Determine if they need a place for twice weekly 3-hour sessions or a once a month 48-hour stay.

Identify the appropriate facility your clients require. If you plan to serve people who have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, your facility should be locked to prevent clients from wandering. For people with physically limiting conditions, special chairs, beds and other equipment and bathrooms are needed. Young children need smaller-sized equipment, cribs and toys.

Hire staff, where required, who have appropriate credentials that match the needs of your clients, such as nurses or physical therapists. Few centers are able to manage to present a full effective program without the help of volunteers, so ongoing training must be planned and implemented.

Find funding sources that will enable you to start and continue operating, since client fees rarely provide sufficient resources. Grants from foundations may be available to help with start-up costs, but they are usually time-limited. When putting a Board of Directors together, recruit some members who can donate or help raise funds. Create an auxiliary, which can seek donations and help recruit volunteers. Check with federal, state and local government entities to determine funding for which you may be eligible.