4 steps to having a (mostly) stress free holiday as a carer
Posted 3rd August 2023 | Reviewed by Julie Dymock MBA-HM | 7 minute read
Whether you’re just dropping in groceries or are living with an elderly loved one, in one form another you are a carer. And as a carer, eventually, you need to have a break.
We’ve put together a 4 step guide on some of the things you should consider before planning a break for yourself and how you can give your loved one a holiday all their own.
Is your loved one going to be cared for by a provider?
...or are they going to be looked after by a friend, neighbour or family member?
Important note: Whatever you decide, always make sure you organise carers in advance! If you know you’re going to be on holiday in 2 months time, start organising now.
Why can’t I just book in carers a few days before?
Service providers need at least 2 weeks to make sure they have everything they need to safely care for your loved one
There can be a lot more documentation to put together than you think! Don’t make your last few days before a holiday more stressful than it needs to be
In the case of residential respite, your preferred provider may not have space in their home for the time that you're away if you don’t book in advance
Have plenty of time for a trial run (in home) or a meet and greet with staff (if you do opt for professional support)
Don’t give yourself the stress – book respite early!
Where we would recommend a friend or loved one for respite
If your loved one is independent, you may only need a friend or loved to help provide:
- A cup of tea and someone to talk to
Groceries that need to be picked up
Some light cleaning around the house
Light gardening and watering of plants (indoor and outdoor)
While these services can all be provided by an external provider, we would always recommend that if care at this level can be taken on by someone that your loved one knows (as opposed to someone new) then that is the ideal.
Where we would recommend a service provider for respite
If your loved one has more complicated care needs you may need a service provider to help with:
- When lists of care and routines start to get complicated
Where sorting and administering medication is a part of care
When your loved one has trouble getting around the house by themselves
2. Organise where your loved one is being cared for
With new services emerging all the time, there are now more options than ever for where respite care is available. However, to keep things simple, the main two options that make the most sense for going away on a holiday are:
In-home support through Home Care Packages through the Australian Government
Residential respite care or a ‘short-stay’ where residents will stay in an aged care home (usually for 2-4 weeks)
Whatever option you choose will depend almost entirely on your loved one’s needs and preferences. After all, you want them to feel the most comfortable (while also feeling the safest!)
Pros and Cons of Residential Aged Care Respite
Residential aged care respite offers a temporary stay in a residential aged care facility. It's a complete package of living quarters, meals, personal care, and health services.
- 24/7 professional care: Round-the-clock supervision ensures the safety and wellbeing of your loved one.
Structured environment: Organised schedule and routines can provide a sense of security and stability.
Social opportunities: Facilities often organise activities and events, providing social interaction and engagement.
Access to medical care: On-site healthcare professionals can promptly address health concerns.
Adjustment difficulties: Some seniors may have trouble adapting to a new environment and schedule.
Less personal attention: Due to a higher number of residents, one-on-one time may be less compared to in-home care.
Limited personal freedom: Set routines and schedules may restrict personal choices and freedom.
Costs: Residential care can be more expensive than in-home care, especially for longer stays.
Things You'll Need for Residential Respite
When your loved one is going into respite care, whether it's in-home or residential, here are some items you should pack:
Medications (Webster pack) along with detailed instructions (please check with the individual site prior to organising your own medications as they may suggest another method of procuring medications).
Clothing labelled with your loved one’s name for the duration of the stay, including sleepwear and extra layers (check with your site if they can label clothes for you).
Personal care items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, and skincare products.
Comfort items like a favourite blanket, family photos, or a cherished book
Important documents, including health insurance cards and medical records
A list of contacts for emergencies and a list of care needs and routines
If you need a GP visit, understand that you may not be able to have your regular GP while in respite
Pause any Meals on Wheels or home services if needed
Let any home care services know that you’ll be away for a while
Pros and Cons of In-Home Care Respite
In-home care respite allows the loved one to stay in their own home while receiving care. It can range from a few hours per day to live-in care.
Comfort of home: Your loved one can stay in their familiar surroundings, following their routines.
Personalised care: The carer can provide one-on-one attention tailored to the individual's needs.
Greater flexibility: Care schedules can be adjusted according to the needs of the individual.
Familiarity: Reduces anxiety and confusion in people with dementia or other cognitive issues.
Limited social opportunities: Depending on the care level, there may be less opportunity for social interaction.
Lack of 24/7 supervision: Unless you hire a live-in carer, around-the-clock supervision may not be available.
Requires home safety and adaptability: The home must be safe and adaptable for care needs.
Finding the right caregiver: It may take time to find a suitable carer who is qualified and bonds well with your loved one.
3. Schedule a meet and greet or trial run
A trial run is an excellent way to assess how well a provider suits your loved one's needs. During this time, you can observe how the carers interact with your loved one, how they handle their care needs, and how your loved one reacts to the carer and the new environment.
If you’re using residential respite care, visit the home and get familiar with the staff. It’s a lot to take in on your first day in an aged care home, so help put your loved one at ease by getting in ahead of time.
4. Check whether you can still be paid as a carer
If you’re a fulltime carer for a loved one, you can have 63 days of respite a year without your carer payment stopping. Just make sure you’re updating your status in My Gov.
If you’re travelling overseas without your loved one, you can use up to 6 weeks of your respite days before you stop receiving your carer payment.
For more information and travel scenarios, visit the Services Australia website here.
Being a carer is one of the most rewarding but difficult jobs in the world. If you feel like you’ve reached your limit as a carer, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that this is a job that shouldn’t be done alone.
Find people you trust, get help from organisations that are made to help you, take a break if you need it and find balance in life as a carer.
Related respite articles
Respite care fees in Australia
How to have the best post-surgery recovery you can (with respite care)
What happens when a carer gets sick?
Still not sure where to start?
St Vincent’s has a dedicated contact centre team that can help put you in the right direction with getting started with respite including:
Helping you navigate My Aged Care
Giving you clarity on the next steps you need to take to get the break you need (and deserve)
Talking through your options for care and putting you in touch with the aged care and home care experts who work with other people who have gone through the exact same thing you ar