Caregivers of dementia patients often find themselves physically and emotionally exhausted. Respite care can lend the primary caregiver support. However, utilization of such service has been low. This prospective study explored patterns of institutional respite utilization over a one year time period. Fifty-eight caregivers of dementia patients treated in an outpatient memory loss clinic participated. Forty percent used respite care during the study period. Data were collected using the Burden Interview, Functional Dementia Scale, Community Service Attitude Inventory, MMSE and self-report questionnaires. Respite users were significantly more cognitively and functionally Impaired than non-users and their caregivers experienced greater burden. These same factors also predicted time to respite care use. Caregiver attitudes were not predictive of respite request or usage.