Respite care provides an organised, temporary break both for carers and the person they care for. Letting someone else do the caring for a few hours or days has benefits for both of you.
What is respite care?
Respite care is designed to give carers a break for a limited period of time. Someone else provides care so the carer can go on holiday, attend to everyday activities or just relax.
Sometimes a carer might need emergency respite care if, for example, they get sick or need to go to hospital. If you need emergency respite care, phone your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222 during business hours or 1800 059 059 outside business hours.
Who is respite care for?
Respite care is meant to be a positive experience, both for the carer and the person being cared for.
Carers sometimes get physically and emotionally tired. It is important that they can have a break so they can be better carers.
Respite care is also for people who are being cared for, such as children or adults with disability, mental illness, dementia, or older people who are frail. It can benefit them through meeting new people, doing new activities and having fun.
Who provides respite care?
There are different sorts of respite care. Respite care can be provided informally by family or friends, or professionally by aged care or disability services.
Types of professional respite services include:
- Care in your own home: Someone visits for a few hours or days.
- Disability respite services: People with disability spend time in a volunteer's home or at a centre where they are supported to do leisure, recreational and group activities. After-school care, vacation care and respite camps are also available.
- Centre-based or community access respite care: People with disability or frail older people are cared for in a specialist respite centre.
- Overnight or weekend respite: Overnight care can be offered in different places, including in a respite house or in the home of a host family.
- Residential respite care: Sometimes older people who need daily help can have a short stay in an aged care home (for example, while their carer goes on holiday).
- Emergency and crisis respite: Short-term care is available for people with a family emergency such as an illness.
Read more about different types of respite services here.
How does it work?
Respite care can be from a few hours to a few weeks. You can organise for regular respite care or you might want to have respite care just now and again.
There are different ways to access respite care. You can ask your family and friends for help. The government also provides support for people to access respite care. You will usually need an assessment first.
For older people: Respite care is provided by the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. This program offers a range of services for people aged over 65, including respite care. Those receiving care may also be eligible for a short stay in an aged care home. Visit myagedcare for more information.
For people with a disability: Respite and in-home care are offered by Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres (CRCCs). You can contact your nearest CRCC on 1800 052 222.
Emergency respite care: If you need respite due to an emergency, you can call 1800 059 059 outside of business hours.
How much does it cost?
Some respite services are free and some are not. It depends on your circumstances, the type of care, the length of time, and the provider.
The Australian Government subsidises a range of respite services. If you can afford it, you are likely to be asked to contribute to some of the cost.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is being rolled out in Australia. It is expected that respite care will be included in some of the services offered by the scheme. Carer Gateway contains more information on what is available.
If you are someone who receives residential respite care in an aged care home, you do not have to pay an accommodation charge or bond, or any additional income-tested fees. But you might have to pay a basic daily fee and sometimes a booking fee. The maximum basic daily fee for a respite resident is set at 85% of the single basic Age Pension.
Last reviewed: June 2017