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What types of respite care are there?

Caring for a loved one is a valuable and rewarding job but also a tough one, and as a carer it’s easy to forget about your own wellbeing.

Last updated: January 11th 2023
Having a break from the caring role can help relieve stress and help you both to recharge (Source: Shutterstock)

Having a break from the caring role can help relieve stress and help you both to recharge (Source: Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • Respite care not only benefits the individual, but can also improve the wellbeing of their carer or family
  • There are different types of respite care that can suit your personal situation
  • Respite care is a great way to experience what living in an aged care facility will be like before you move in

Your carer might be struggling to balance work, family and friends while caring for you. Maybe they need some time to go to an appointment, would like time to visit friends, go on a holiday or simply feel like they need some time away from it all.

When you are an in-home carer, there is a lot more opportunity to experience carer burnout as the caring duties sometimes feel like they never stop.

The aim of this type of respite is to provide a carer with a brief break from their carer duties, whether that is to attend to any personal things, like appointments, or if just to relax and enjoy some reading or time to themselves.

Having a break from the caring role can help relieve stress and help you both to recharge, which will ultimately benefit both you and your carer.

Whether it is for a couple of hours, a few days or a number of weeks, respite care can give your carer the time to do activities for themselves while knowing that you are well looked after and receiving care and health services.

Types of respite care

There are a number of different respite options available, provided in different settings. These options are:

In home respite

A care worker will come to your home to look after you, so your carer can go out for a few hours, or they will take you out for a coffee or a walk. This type of respite is available during the day or overnight.

In home respite also can reassure carers that their loved one is still in safe hands and will be well cared for while you are undertaking your respite.

Centre based day respite

Through centre based respite care you can attend social and recreational activities in a centre based setting for a couple of hours during the day. You might go to a day club or respite centre for group activities. The centre is staffed by trained respite workers.

If you are taking care of an elderly loved one, a Centre Based Care (CBC) respite service can get them out and about, and meeting new people for social enjoyment.

Or you might attend a CBC respite service to allow your carer time to do other things while you are at respite.

Receiving respite at these centres usually are available between certain times, from 10 am to 3 pm, and you are sometimes able to get access to transport to and from the centre if you require it or be provided a meal at the centre.

Overnight or weekend respite

A respite care worker will come stay with you in your home overnight to look after you, or you can spend the night away from home in a respite house or cottage.

Cottage respite involves you heading to a local place in your community or to a home of a host family to undertake your respite. This type of respite usually lasts for two to three days.

Community access respite

Provided either individually or in a group, a care worker will accompany you to a community based activity like a social event or outing. This gives you the opportunity to have a social experience and interact with others.

Staff will work with you to help you build stronger relationships and connection with people while also re-engaging them with their community.

It also provides you with an opportunity to engage in fun activities with like minded individuals.

Consumer Directed Respite Care

This is a package of respite services, tailored to your personal situation. A package may include some residential respite combined with in-home respite and allocation for emergency respite.

Consumer Directed Respite Care gives you a greater say and more control about respite services provided to you.

This form of respite care is provided through funding from the Department of Social Services.

You can receive this respite care in the home or in a provider approved location. Providers tend to case manage the respite services you receive.

Residential respite

If your carer needs to go to hospital or would like to go on a holiday, but you need help every day, you can move into a nursing home for a short stay to receive care. You’ll return home when your carer is back to care for you.

You are able to access subsidised residential respite for up to 63 days a year, planned or unplanned (emergency). You can get an extension for this by 21 days if you get approval from your aged care assessor.

When in residential respite care, expect to be treated as if you were a regular resident of the aged care home, with access to the same level of care and support. However, your own ACAT assessment will determine whether you receive low or high level care from the provider.

Emergency respite

If you need respite urgently, you can contact Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 for emergency respite care. Carer Gateway is the Government hub for carers support and assistance across the country.

There are certain situations which make you eligible for emergency respite, including the sudden death of your primary carer, a major illness that has affected your primary carer, or an unexpected situation where your carer can not look after you.

You will still need to tell Carer Gateway information about yourself so the right care can be provided to you.

When respite care is needed

There is no fixed time for when to use respite care but it is best not to wait until you or your carer are too stressed or overwhelmed with the caring responsibilities before considering it.

If your carer feels like they need a break, they should trust their instincts and try not to feel guilty. It is important they look after themselves so they can continue to care for you.

Sometimes it is a good idea to start respite early so you can get used to someone else looking after you and become familiar with a new place.

You can also use respite care in a nursing home as a way of finding out about the quality of care before deciding if the home is a good place for you to permanently move into.

How to get respite care

Subsidised respite care in an in-home or community care setting is available through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or through funding in your Home Care Package.

You will need to be assessed by the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) or the Aged Care Assessment Team/Service (ACAT/S) to determine what type of care suits your needs and situation.

Residential Respite

A respite bed in a nursing home generally has to be booked in advance, although in cases of emergencies it can be organised quite quickly.

To access respite in a nursing home, you’ll need to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) to decide the level of care you require.

Once you have received approval for respite care, you will receive a referral letter to access services. You can then start searching for a respite care service that suits your needs, use the online directory to find the best respite service for you.

Who provides respite care

Respite care is offered by Government funded community care services and nursing homes but can also be provided by private organisations.

Short-term care services are often tailored towards your required care needs and personal preferences by the provider.

Similarly, a private organisation will provide services you require, however, you will need to cover all the costs yourself without Government funding assistance.

The costs of respite care

The cost of respite care varies and depends on the services you access. Some services are free, others may attract a small fee. If you can afford to, you will be expected to contribute to the cost of respite care. How much you’ll have to pay depends on your income.

If you access residential respite in a nursing home you’ll be charged a daily fee to cover the cost of your care. Because the stay is temporary, you don’t have to pay an accommodation charge or bond.

You may be eligible to receive Government funding for most of the respite care services, including through the CHSP, Home Care Package (HCP) or through the Department of Social Services. If you decide to go with a private respite care service, you will need to pay for yourself and the services you receive.

Choosing respite care

Before deciding on a respite provider make sure you feel comfortable with the provider and ask lots of questions so you can get a feel for their services.

If you’re considering respite options away from home, try and visit the respite location so you can see what it involved, observe participants and staff interaction and try to picture yourself there. Again, ask lots of questions and make sure you feel comfortable with your choice.

Some questions to ask could be:

  • What type of activities are provided
  • How many participants access the services at the one time
  • What is the level of training and experience of the care workers?
  • Is there a ratio of care workers per number of participants?
  • Does the provider cater for special needs (cultural/dementia)?
  • Does the program include meals and/or transportation?

For more information about respite options, you can contact Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 during business hours.

Have you accessed respite? And if so, did you enjoy the experience? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content

Differences between respite at home and nursing home respite
How to use respite in an emergency
Benefits of short term respite care

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