Caring for a person with dementia can be rewarding, but it can be physically and emotionally tiring as well. It’s important to take a regular break from your caring role to look after your own needs as well. This can happen through respite care.
There are many ways to get respite care. It can be done informally with friends or family, or through formal respite services. It’s a matter of finding the program or situation that suits you, your family and the person you care for.
Some types of respite care involve an assessment of your situation. These assessments are designed to help you receive the support you need, including finding out if you are eligible to receive government-supported services.
Costs for respite care can vary depending on your circumstances and the type of help you need. The Australian Government subsidises a range of aged care services in Australia. If your personal circumstances allow, it’s expected you’ll contribute towards the cost of your care if you can afford to do so.
You may be worried about leaving the person you care for while you take a break. Respite care can be helpful for them as well. It gives the person with dementia the opportunity to meet and talk to other people and provides them with new experiences. They can also become used to being cared for by other people.
And it gives you, as the carer, time to catch up on some of the things you’ve put aside, like seeing friends, or having a holiday, or just sleeping properly again for a while.
The person with dementia may be anxious about respite care at first, but being positive about the break and planning ahead can help calm their feelings. Remember, it’s very important for you to take a break to look after your own needs as well. This type of support may mean you can continue in your caring role for longer.
How respite is used by carers of people with dementia
There are many ways carers of people with dementia can make the most of respite care. It can be used to provide care in an emergency or arranged for a longer period of time in a residential facility.
For emergency respite care, call 1800 422 737, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
To use residential respite, the person with dementia must be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) to determine the level of care required. You can visit the My Aged Care website or call them on 1800 200 422, or ask your doctor to refer you for an assessment. For more advice, you can contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
How you use your respite time is up to you. You can use the time to have a rest, socialise with friends, pursue your hobbies, go to the dentist, attend to business or even to go on a holiday. There are no rules. If at all possible, make some of the time about enjoyment, not just recovery.
Respite care can last for a few hours or days, or for longer periods. How much respite care you receive depends on your individual situation and the services available in your area.
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Last reviewed: April 2020