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Making the Most of Respite

It may take a while before you feel comfortable leaving the person you support in someone else’s care. There are many things you can do to ease the transition and make sure everybody enjoys the respite experience.

Organising respite support

To organise respite support call Carers ACT on 1800 052 222. After 1st of March 2020 you will need to go through the Carer Gateway to access respite support. Read more about the new Carer Gateway carer support system here.

You can usually visit a respite facility before booking your family member in. Visit with them (if possible) and meet with key staff to discuss everybody’s expectations and needs.

Work in partnership with respite workers

Respite works best when everybody works together.

You provide much of the day to day care needed by the person you support and have a unique and deep understanding of their needs. It is important that the workers who support you acknowledge your expertise and work in partnership with you.

Take the time to get to know the workers who will be supporting your family member. A good relationship builds trust and helps you to communicate your needs more easily.

Discuss the types of support available and work with the respite provider to decide what will work best for you and your family member. Communicate your needs and expectations clearly and openly but also be prepared to listen and to accept what the provider can and can’t provide.

Read our advice on speaking up for yourself for tips on how to negotiate for what you need.

Share your expertise

Ask to be involved in developing a care plan for your family member.

With the help of your doctor, support worker or pharmacist write down important information that the respite workers may need to know, including:

A life book contains written information and pictures about a person’s history, personality, likes and dislikes and practical needs. If your family member finds it difficult to communicate for themselves, creating a life book can be an informative and friendly way to help respite workers get to know them better.

Cover the practicalities

Clearly label clothing and other belongings.

Make a list of the practical things you need think about or pack if your family member uses residential respite. Copy and use it as a checklist.

Plan your own break

Time to yourself is precious.‘Pottering around at home’ can be very satisfying but try not to use all your respite time catching up on outstanding chores.

Put aside time to do something relaxing or energizing – something you will really enjoy. Plan ahead and make sure you do exactly what you want:

Try something you have always wanted to do – take a class, a new activity or take a trip somewhere you have always wanted to go.

Research indicates that experiences and activities give people more satisfaction and lasting pleasure than purchasing a material possession.


Book in for a bit of pampering – have a facial or massage, go out for a meal, give yourself bit of retail therapy.

Concentrate on something that’s been missing from your daily routine – catch up with friends, see a movie, get active or go for a long walk.

Dealing with difficulties

Sometimes things go wrong, particularly the first few times. Respite is an adjustment for everybody and it can take time to get things right.

Perhaps the person you care for did not enjoy the respite – they may ask to come home halfway through or want you to promise not to leave them again.

Perhaps you found it difficult to let go and spent most of your break worrying about your family member.

Perhaps you have concerns about the respite service and need to consider using a different provider or to negotiate more appropriate care for your family member
These problems are not unusual and they should not stop you trying again.