Respite care

Caring for someone can be very rewarding, and it can also be demanding and tiring work — both physically and emotionally. It's important for you to take time off to give yourself a break and to look after your own health and wellbeing. This can happen through respite care.

What is respite care?

Respite care (also known as 'short-term care') is a form of support for carers. It gives you the opportunity to attend to everyday activities and have a break from your caring role. Respite care may be given informally by friends, family or neighbours, or by formal respite services. It's things like respite care that may mean you can continue in your caring role for longer.

Respite care may be for a few hours or days or for longer periods, depending on your needs, the needs of the person you care for, and what services are available in your area. It can happen in your home or at facilities such as an overnight respite cottage, a day centre or aged care home.

Will it help the person I care for?

Yes. The person you care for may appreciate the fact that both of you are being supported and receiving the help you need. They may also feel like they have a wider social life, and enjoy meeting and talking to other people.

Will it help me to go to work?

Respite care is available to support working carers of frail aged people or carers wanting to re-enter the workforce.

What if I need help right now?

If you need emergency respite care, phone your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222 during business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30am–5pm) or 1800 059 059 outside business hours.

What types of services are available?

There are a few types of services available. Have a look at the types below to see which one might suit your needs and situation.

National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP)

This is one of several initiatives designed to assist you by providing Government-subsidised access to a variety of respite services. Some of these planned respite service types are listed below:

In-home respite

This type of respite usually involves a person working as a carer who comes to your home (or the home of the person you care for) so that you can go out for a few hours. Or, they may take the person you care for on an outing for a few hours while you have a break.

In-home respite can happen during the day or overnight.

Centre-based day respite

This type of respite care usually takes place at a day centre or club. It offers personalised structured activities, group activities or small group outings that give the person you care for a chance to talk to other people.

Day respite often runs from 10am to 3pm and may include transporting the person you care for to and from the centre-based day respite centre.

Overnight or weekend respite

Overnight care may be provided in a variety of settings. These include a respite house ('cottage-style' respite) or the home of a host family.

Community access respite

Community access respite provides activities to give the person a social experience to encourage a sense of independence and social interaction and provides you with a break.

This may be provided to the individual person or as part of a group setting. It may be provided during the day or in an overnight setting.

Consumer Directed Respite Care

There are also a limited number of Consumer Directed Respite Care (CDRC) packages under the National Respite for Carers Program.  CDRC lets you take a break from your caring role while also giving you a greater say and more control over the design and delivery of respite services provided to you and the person you care for.  This means you can make choices about:
  • the types of respite services you access
  • how they are delivered
  • when they are delivered
  • who will deliver them to you.
To enquire about CDRC, contact your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222. 

Residential respite care (short stays in aged care homes)

If the person you care for needs help every day, they may need to have a short stay in an aged care home while you have a break for a few days or longer. This is called 'residential respite care', and can happen on a planned or emergency basis.

You might use this type of respite care to attend a wedding or other event, go on a holiday or to just generally take some time for yourself. Or you may need help while you are unwell or unable to provide care for any other reason. Once you are back from your break, the person you care for will also return home.

Organising this type of respite care is a bit different to organising other types of respite services – read more about short stays in aged care homes.

What if the person I care for has been in hospital?

If the person you care for has been in hospital and is ready to be discharged, but still needs more help than usual, then they may benefit from transition care.

Transition care provides short-term care that is focused on particular therapies such as physiotherapy (exercises, mobility, strength and balance), occupational therapy (help to recover or maintain your physical ability), speech therapy, services of a dietitian (nutrition assessment, food and nutrition advice, dietary changes), podiatry (foot care), as well as counselling and social work. It aims to help the person you care for become as independent as they can be after they've been in hospital, and provides extra support while you and they decide about the best place for them to live in the longer term. Read more about transition care.