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Understanding Respite Care and When It's Needed

Residential Aged CareJune 1, 20236 minute read
Barry Marsh House resident, Christina Singh for new RC Campaign - Aged care that's personal 2022

Many carers underestimate the importance of rest time when it comes to providing care to a family member or friend. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates that 55% of primary carers performed their caring role for more than 20 hours per week. This was regardless of other employment or personal responsibilities. This ongoing commitment may become taxing on your physical and mental health if you don’t take ample breaks.

Many carers will have heard of respite care providers, but may not know:

  • What the service entails.
  • What respite options are available.
  • How to identify when they should try this temporary care.

To help, we've created this guide for carers defining what respite care services are and identifying when this care option might be suitable.

What is respite care?

Respite care is a period of relief from regular caring duties, providing a break from day-to-day responsibilities while the person cared for continues to receive care from qualified individuals. Respite offers carers:

  • Time to recharge the batteries, sleep, exercise and address their own health issues.
  • A chance to focus on their own needs, friendships, hobbies and personal goals.
  • Peace of mind knowing that the person they care for won't be neglected if they take a break.

This period of rest can be flexible to suit the requirements of the carer, depending on the length of the break needed and the support the person cared for needs. The importance of respite is demonstrated by the fact that there were approximately 70,000 admissions into respite care services in 2017 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare), be that at home, in a community setting or in a residential facility.

Respite can be regular planned support or arranged quickly as a one off in response to a family emergency

What are the respite care options available?

There are four main forms of respite care available:

In-home respite sees a qualified worker come to your home to give you a rest for a while. This option is perfect for those caring for someone at home, allowing the person cared for to remain in familiar surroundings while you attend to other things or go out without taking them with you.

Centre-based respite involves taking the person in your care to a community respite centre. There, experienced care workers facilitate activities and look after a group of individuals receiving respite care. This option is great for both carers and the person cared for. Carers can look forward to regular full day breaks and spend time without having to worry about their caring responsibilities, while the person cared for stays at the centre socialising and joining in activities with new friends.

Cottage overnight respite is short term overnight or weekend stays at a home like cottage. Anglicare’s cottages are staffed by experienced staff who support the person throughout their stay. The cottages only host small numbers of people at any time so the environment is very cosy and friendly.

Residential respite care in a nursing home means that when a carer needs a break, is sick or goes on holiday their person cared for can stay at a dedicated care home. Residential facilities have all of the support services needed. Residential respite can be planned for long stays of up to 62 days each year. 

How can I identify when I need respite?

There are some tell-tale signs that indicate you may benefit from a break from your caring role. These include:

  • A feeling of restlessness or exhaustion, even after ample sleep. This can be physical tiredness or mental fatigue. In either case, this exhaustion can become more serious if you don’t seek support with how you are feeling and take some time out.
  • A lack of empathy with the person you are looking after. If you start to feel jaded or dulled to the challenges faced by those in your care, or bitter about your care situation, it's likely time to have a break from your care responsibilities.
  • An inability to pursue hobbies or personal goals due to lack of time and independence. If your caring duties interfere with your own social or working life, you can plan regular breaks to refresh and do the things you need to do and the things that make you happy.

Anglicare also offers carers information, education and training in many aspects of being a carer, particularly if you are caring for someone living with dementia. Anglicare has Carer Support Groups where you can come along and meet with others in similar circumstances. Carers making these connections often feel less isolated when they share their experiences and learn from others.

Am I eligible for respite care support?

The Commonwealth Government offers subsidised planned respite for people aged over 65 years or over 50 years for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Communities via the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, and/or in subsidised beds in residential facilities.

To access this support you can contact My Aged Care 1800 200 422 for a referral for ongoing planned in-home respite, regular planned centre based respite and overnight cottage respite.

To access residential respite in a care home the person cared for will need an ACAT assessment, the My Aged Care team can arrange this for you.

You can also contact Anglicare directly on 1300 111 278 if you need support accessing respite services for the older person you care for.

To access respite for younger people with a disability you can contact the Carer Gateway 1800 422 737 they will direct you to your local respite support centre.

Taking steps to secure respite care services

The ABS' Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers show 2.7 million Australians provided informal care at its last count. That's a significant number of people caring for another person. It also indicates there may be millions of people who aren't aware of the support options available.

Being a carer is a rewarding and sometimes challenging role but no one can do it 24 hours a day 7 days a week. To be able to continue to support another person long term carers should plan to take regular breaks and seek support if they are not feeling that they are coping.

Everybody deserves a break - especially people who care for others. Anglicare recognises the amazing, selfless support carers provide and so specialises in providing carer support and respite services to uphold carers and help to strengthen relationships with the person cared for.

We understand the commitment carers make to the person cared for and want to offer carers as much help as they need to keep caring. This includes offering carers time to rest and the peace of mind that their person cared for will be safe, valued and in good hands.

The experienced Anglicare team offers happy, safe and high-quality caring respite environments.

Anglicare acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original and ongoing custodians of the lands and waters on which we live and work.

Inspired by the gospel of reconciliation in Jesus Christ, Anglicare's vision for reconciliation is a nation in which Australia's First Peoples are restored in dignity, respect, empowerment and opportunity.