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Respite care


Respite care is a form of support for carers. It enables them to attend to everyday activities, and to also take a break from their caring role.

Carers are usually family members or friends who provide support to children or adults who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, or who are frail aged. They can be parents, partners, siblings, friends or children of any age.

Caring for someone can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and regular breaks ('called respite') can help relieve the stress and exhaustion carers may feel at times. You are also at a greater risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

If you are worried about your own mental health as a carer, there is plenty of help and support available. Check out mindhealthconnect,, or call Carers Australia on 1800 242 636. And don’t forget, respite can also provide benefits for the person being cared for such as new experiences and something to look forward to.

Where is respite care taking place?

Respite care can be given informally by friends, family or neighbours, or by formal respite services. It can take place:

  • in the person’s home with care ranging from a few hours each week to overnight care (in-home respite)
  • in a day care centre which provides full or half-day care
  • in a residential aged care home for two or three weeks.

Who provides respite care?

Respite care is provided by community care services, such as the Home and Community Care Program (HACC) or the National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP), or by residential care homes.

If you think you may need respite care, you can talk to your doctor, your Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) or contact a Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222. These centres are run by a wide variety of community organisations in metropolitan, rural and remote regions across Australia.

The type of respite you take will depend on what suits both you and the person you are caring for, as well as what services are available in your area. Some carers take regular respite breaks while others only take a respite break once a year.

Most services have waiting lists so try and plan ahea. And it is also important not to wait until you are feeling stressed before you arrange for respite. You might also worry about the person you care for if you take a respite break, or worry about the cost of respite services. These concerns should be discussed with your Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222.

What does respite care cost?

The cost of respite care varies. Some services are free while others may charge a small fee or charge according to your income. Some private services may be expensive. To find out more about the cost associated with respite care call your Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222.

Sometimes you might need urgent respite care. This could be due to the death of a relative, a sudden illness or an accident where you are admitted to hospital. Emergency respite care can be arranged in most areas through the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222 during standards business hours, or 1800 059 059 outside of standard business hours.

The Commonwealth Government also produces a Carer Information Pack which provides practical information for carers. These can be obtained by:

  • phoning the Aged Care Information Line on 1800 500 853
  • phoning National Mailing and Marketing on (02) 6269 1080
  • visiting the 'Aged Care Publications' website at

Carers Australia also provides professional counselling, specialist advice and information for carers.
 For more information go to, or phone 1800 242 636.

Sources: Department of Health and Ageing (Taking a Break, Respite Care, Services for you, Carer Information Pack, Network of Carer Associations, National Respite for Carers Program), (Caring for yourself while caring for others)

Facts & figures

  • Some of the most frequently used types of respite include:
  • in-home respite care
  • day care programs
  • residential respite care in an aged care home
  • residential respite care for younger people with an illness or a disability
  • weekend or holiday program opportunities
  • recreation activities in the community
  • camps for siblings and carers under 18 years of age.
  • There were 2.6 million carers who provided assistance to those who needed help because of disability or old age in 2009. 29% of these were primary carers (people who provided the majority of the informal help) or aged 60 years and over. Over two-thirds of primary carers (68%) were women.
  • 29% of parents identified as primary carers in 2003 had used a formal respite care service for their child at some time in the past, and 17% had done so within the previous three months. About 38% felt they needed more respite care than they received, and 55% of primary carers of children aged less than 15 years had never accessed respite care and felt they did not need it. A further 16% had never received respite care, but felt they needed it.

Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics (Australian Social Trends, 2008, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2009), Department of Health and Ageing (Taking a Break)

Last reviewed: 
December, 2012