What is respite

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‘Respite’ or ‘respite care’ is when someone else takes care of the person you care for, so that you can have a break. A break can give you time to do everyday activities or just to relax, deal with stress and look after yourself.

When you are a carer, it’s important to regularly take time for yourself to rest and recharge.

What does respite care involve

Respite care can be given by family or friends or by a respite service. It can take place at home, in the community, at a centre or in a residential care facility.

Respite care can be:

  • for a short time (for example, for a few hours each week)
  • for a longer time, including overnight (for example, a weekend)

Services like My Aged Care or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may arrange respite care for the person you care for.

Some community organisations offer care for particular groups (for example, activities for children or cultural groups). They may also offer activities for the person you care for, such as social events or therapy sessions. This can give you time for yourself.

Some carer groups also offer activities for carers (for example, morning teas or yoga classes) to help you get a break.

Getting respite care in an emergency

You might be able to get emergency respite care at short notice if you suddenly find you can’t provide care, for example if you are ill or injured. If you need emergency respite care, talk with your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222 (or 1800 059 059 after hours).

It’s a good idea to make an emergency care plan, in case someone else needs to take over for you in an emergency.

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Caring for someone can be rewarding. But it's also a big commitment which comes with big challenges. It can be easy to lose sight of your own needs, including time for yourself to get a rest from your caring role.

You might find that taking a break is difficult at first, especially if you're the main carer. But it's really important to have a break and to ask for help.

You may consider taking some time out to participate in activities you enjoy. Focus on your relationships. Make sure you're fit and healthy. And most importantly, take time to focus on yourself.

You may not be aware that there's help available to give you time to do the things you need to do. Sometimes it's called respite.

Respite comes in many forms and can include a few hours break through to care given over a two-to-three-week period.

It may come from family members, friends and neighbours helping out to give you a hand, or in-home support from a worker who comes to the home to take over your caring duties for a period of time so you can get the break you need.

Other community and privately-run organisations such as day centres and residential care facilities may also provide assistance.

Some respite services are free, whilst others come at a cost. It's important to find out what works best for you. But make sure you book early, as places can fill up quickly. It also works best when it's planned in advance and regular. So you know exactly when you will next be able to take a break.

The person you care for may look forward to a break as much as you do. Although respite can also mean a big change for them. That's why it's important to explain the process to them, take time to find an arrangement that suits you both, and plan ahead so everyone gets the best experience out of respite care.

For more information on respite, or to find out what respite options may be available for you and the person you care for, please go to carergateway.gov.au or call 1800 422 737.