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How to use respite in an emergency

Last Updated at January 6th 2021
You can only be so prepared for an emergency, they tend to take you by surprise. But when it comes to the safety of you and your carer, sometimes unexpected incidents can happen, leaving you without the care you need.

Key points:

  • Emergency respite may be available when an unexpected situation happens and you suddenly don't have a carer to assist you with care and support

  • Contact Carer Gateway for emergency respite services on 1800 422 737

  • Having an accessible emergency care plan can help you during accidents

Older person in emergency respite care
Emergency respite will cover you for a period of time before things either settle down or you find new support to assist you. [Source: iStock]

Emergency respite care is an option to fill that gap when you are suddenly unable to receive care, assistance and support because your carer is unavailable.

While you can't always predict what is going to happen, it is handy to know who you call to get emergency respite and to prepare as much as possible with an emergency care plan.

Reasons for accessing emergency respite

The main reason for accessing emergency respite is due to an unexpected event that has left you unable to care for yourself or for your carer to be able to take care of you.

Some examples include:

  • The person requiring care has their health and safety threatened by something

  • Your carer experiences a major illness the requires going to hospital or bed rest, so they are unable to provide care

  • The carer has unexpectedly passed away and you need emergency respite to cover your care during this time

  • A loved one of the carer has died

  • Any family problems or mental illness

Emergency respite will cover you for a period of time before things either settle down or you find new support to assist you in your everyday life.

Depending on your personal situation, if you have a level of independence in and around the home, you may only require in home respite care or community respite care. However, if you struggle with any mobility or health issues, you may need to undertake the emergency respite in an aged care home.

How to access emergency respite care

When you suddenly require emergency respite care, the best starting point is Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737. Carer Gateway is a Government carer support network, you can call from Monday to Friday between 8 am - 5 pm, however, the line is available 24/7 for emergency respite situations.

Carer Gateway will ascertain what your care and support requirements are to make sure all of your needs are met.

Emergency care tends to be short-term respite care for the period of time you are unable to receive assistance from your normal carer.

It can also give you time to sort out where to go from there. For instance, if you need to be reassessed for a higher level Home Care Package, or need to make the decision to move into a residential care facility.

Preparing for an emergency

Carer Gateway recommends putting together an emergency plan in case of emergency situations. The great thing about having an emergency plan is that it can be used for other things besides last-minute respite, including for sudden hospital stays.

An important element of your emergency plan should be having all the emergency plan documents in one place, so you can grab it and go.

This can include:

  • Your personal information like your name, address, age, health status, and any conditions

  • Details for your emergency contacts, like family members or close friends, an appointed guardian or power of attorney, or your chosen health professionals

  • Your medical history

  • Any medication you are prescribed and are consuming, including instructions on how this medication should be consumed and prescriptions

  • Your care needs, such as what food and drink you would usually have and any personal care information

  • Information about the support services your receive and list any appointments you have coming up with dates, the time and the location

  • Copies of important documents, such as Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) or Wills

  • Any other relevant information that you believe is important for someone to know during an emergency, like any pets you may have

You should have both a physical copy of your emergency plan as well as a digital copy saved you on your phone and computer.

Carer Gateway suggests also providing a copy to your emergency contacts and to your regular doctor.

A carer can create a carer emergency card through Carer Gateway which they can carry in their wallet. It can let people know that the individual has caring duties for someone.

These cards usually have contact information for the person who has the emergency care plan or for someone that will take up the caring role in case something happens.

Additionally, the person who receives care can have a card that states that they are receiving care from someone.

How has emergency respite assisted you in an unexpected situation? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

What types of respite care are there?
Differences between respite at home and nursing home respite
Benefits of short term respite care

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