Providing a range of respite options for older people and their carers has traditionally been considered a core aspect of a well-functioning aged care system. In an ideal context, supporting informal carers and maintaining older people in their homes involves providing access to a broad range of support including flexible respite services in a variety of settings.
Reforms in Australia are significantly transforming the aged care service sector, towards a more individualised, consumer directed and market based approach to service delivery. In the context of the fundamental re-design of the aged care system, what has happened to respite for carers?
In this study, a content analysis of national programs was conducted to identify how planned and emergency respite have been included in new and continuing national programs including: the Home Care Support Program, Home Care Packages, Consumer Directed Respite Care Packages, the Veterans Home Care Program, Commonwealth Carelink and Carer Respite Centres and the new Carers Gateway and Integrated Care Plan. Following a review of current access pathways for the full range of respite services, a ‘respite map’ was developed to highlight the pathways older people and their carers need to navigate to access respite care. Within each program core dimensions of respite were also considered including how the system supports the ‘Who, Where, When, What and How’ of flexible respite care.