The ultimate guide to residential respite care

Residential respite care

Article by 

Lucy Pearson

While caring for a loved one is rewarding, it can be physically and emotionally demanding.

Taking some time out from your usual care routine lets you refresh, relax and recharge, and it can also enhance the wellbeing of the person you’re caring for.

Aged Care Decisions is Australia’s leading free service that helps families find respite, and here, they’ve shared their ultimate guide to using residential respite care to take a well-earned break.

What is residential respite care?

Residential respite care is a temporary stay, either in an aged care facility, or a nursing home.

A short-term placement in a nursing home offers access to quality, professional care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can be confident your loved one is being well looked after, so you can thoroughly enjoy your break!

Residential respite care is usually offered for a minimum of two-weeks at a time, and the government subsidises up to 63 days per person, per financial year.

The four main benefits of residential respite care:

1.  Everybody gets a well-earned break.

A respite care stay gives everyone a bit of time out, allowing both the carer and the person receiving care to step away from daily routines.

While carers can become overwhelmed and exhausted, despite their desire to help, those being cared for can feel crowded, frustrated by lack of independence, and tired of relying on loved ones for help with daily tasks.

A break from the everyday can have a positive effect on long-term relationships, enabling better care and more harmonious ongoing care arrangements.

Absence can make the heart grow fonder!

2.  A new experience for your loved one

Residential respite care lets your loved one experience a new and different environment. They will meet similarly aged people, join fun group activities, try new things, and start new friendships.

A temporary nursing home stay offers a change of scenery, and a bit of an adventure. 

3.  An opportunity to try-before-you-buy.

Choosing a nursing home is a big decision. How do you know your loved one will like it?

Short term residential respite lets them ‘try-before-they-buy’ as they experience nursing home life first-hand.

During a respite stay they will receive the same care as permanent residents, including a room, meals, nursing care, housekeeping, laundry services and access to a program of social activities. After their experience in residential aged care, they’ll know what questions to ask, and what positives and negatives to look for when they’re ready to look for a permanent placement.

4. Respite care can be used for regular breaks.

Residential respite care is fantastic for older people who need regular short-term care because it can be used in short bursts.  Your loved one may be eligible for up to 63 days of government subsidised nursing home care (including emergency care) which can be spread across each financial year. 

How to access government-funded respite care

To make residential respite care affordable for everyone who needs it, the Australian Government funds up to 63 days in a nursing home per eligible person per financial year.  The 63 days ‘resets’ on 1 July each year.  This respite care allowance can be used to access in home care, community respite programs, and short-term residential respite care stays.

Who is eligible?

Most Australians aged over 65 (over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) who need assistance with everyday living, will be able to apply for subsidised respite care.

Residential respite care

How to apply for subsidised care

An ACAT assessment is the first step you need to take to access government-funded residential respite care. ACAT stands for Aged Care Assessment Team. (In Victoria the term used is ACAS, or Aged Care Assessment Service). ACAT assessments are coordinated by government organisation My Aged Care.  You can apply for an assessment online or call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.

The assessment process considers the applicant’s care needs and will also evaluate their financial situation to determine how much they must contribute to the cost of their care.

How to find respite care vacancies

This is where Aged Care Decisions can help, by saving you time and lots of running around.

Aged Care Decisions is a 100% free service that helps tens of thousands of Australian families find aged care vacancies that suit their needs.

Their custom-built software takes your location, budget, specific care needs and personal preferences, and creates a tailored aged care Options Report for you. This report narrows your search down to only include vacancies and available providers that match your needs.

Aged Care Decisions can help you at every stage of your aged care journey, whether you’re looking for urgent respite care or are planning for respite care in advance.

Make the most of residential respite care by getting organised in advance.

Pre-planning makes it more likely that you’ll find a good match:

By taking the time to carefully consider factors like location, availability, qualifications, experience, personality traits and service costs, you’ll have a better chance of finding a nursing home that closely matches your loved one’s respite care needs. More planning can mean more choices.  As they say, the early bird gets the worm.

You’ll avoid stress in an emergency:

By investigating respite care options before you need them, you can avoid scrambling if there’s an emergency or sudden need for care.  Getting organised in advance can be particularly important in busy metropolitan areas such as Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth, where demand for respite care services is high.

You can better manage your loved one’s expectations.

Considering respite care options in advance can give both you and your loved one something to look forward to.  By ensuring plenty of time for two-way conversations, you’ll be better able to manage your loved one’s expectations and frame a short stay in a nursing home as a positive experience.

How to find a respite care vacancy that suits you

Researching residential aged care facilities in your area involves many phone calls and lots of running around.  A fantastic alternative is using a placement service to do the hard work for you. 

Aged Care Decisions is Australia’s largest, 100% independent aged care placement service. They help over 15,000 Australian families find suitable nursing home vacancies, Home Care Package Providers and respite care options each month.

Aged Care Decisions’ matching service is 100% free for families and can take the stress out of finding a respite care vacancy that suits your loved one.

When you speak to an Aged Care Decisions Placement Specialist on the phone they will take your loved one’s location, budget, care needs and personal preferences, and use custom-built software to match them with current, suitable nursing home vacancies.

From there you’ll receive a customised list of vacancies, an introduction to the nursing homes you prefer, and support throughout your journey to secure and make the most of residential respite care.

You can get started by visiting Aged Care Decisions or call Aged Care Decision on 1300 775 870.

Caring for the carers

As a carer it’s important that you make time for you.  Time away from your day-to-day caregiving routine lets you recharge your batteries, relax, refresh, and focus on your personal goals outside of your carer role.  You deserve it.

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  1. I wish I’d been advised about this respite service when I was admitted to hospital for some days, needing to find help from friends & family to care for my elderly mother.

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