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Respite care is a form of short-term, temporary professional care for a person living with dementia.

It can range from a few hours to a few days or longer. Respite care can be arranged on a regular or occasional basis, or in emergency situations.

People living with dementia, and the people who care for them, choose respite care for lots of reasons. If you’re living with dementia, it can mean the chance to meet new people and try some new activities. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, respite care can give you a break to take care of yourself, rest and do other things. 

I was glad to get out of the house and do something different … and Jill had time to herself to do things

– Person living with dementia

Types of respite care

Respite care can work in a few different ways:

  • In-home respite: a care worker comes to your home during the week, weekend, or overnight. They may also accompany you to an activity you enjoy.
  • Out-of-home respite: involving group activities in local day centres. These offer planned care and social engagement from a few hours to several days a week, with some offering extended hours, weekend or overnight care.
  • Residential care respite: some residential aged care facilities offer temporary overnight stays of several days or longer.

There are government-funded respite programs depending on needs, eligibility and what services are available in your area. Your local council, state or territory government may also offer respite care. Respite is also available from respite care services, including church and community groups.

Choosing a respite care service

When you’re deciding which respite care service to use, focus on your needs and goals. The service you choose should meet those needs, so you can feel confident and in control of the care. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the type of service provided when you want it, for the time you want it?
  • Is there a waiting list?
  • Do respite activities, staff and group members match the personal interests of the person receiving the respite service?
  • Is the location and atmosphere safe, friendly and supportive?
  • How are individual interests and wellbeing assessed, supported, discussed and reviewed?

Respite services should offer flexibility to cater for your needs, your preferred type of respite, and who you are, including people who are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people with diverse cultural backgrounds or who speak languages other than English, and people who are LGBTI+.

Adjusting to respite care

It might take time to feel confident and comfortable using respite services. It can help to:

  • talk with other people who’ve used respite care about their experience
  • start with short respite breaks before having longer ones
  • share your initial experience with your respite worker, to help you get to know each other.

You can always talk with your respite care provider about your experience, during or after the care. It’s okay to request reasonable changes and give useful feedback.

Building partnerships with your care provider

The better your respite care provider knows you, the better the care they can give. Share important personal information, such as:

  • your likes and dislikes
  • ways you prefer to do things
  • how you react to stress and what can help
  • significant life events
  • medical issues
  • your medications
  • any emergency arrangements.

It can also be useful for the person accessing respite to take with them a life story photo album or board or a meaningful personal object. They can help your carer understand you and build your relationship with them.

Finding respite care

The Australian Government funds many different types of respite services. Different services will be available, depending on where you live and the eligibility of the person with dementia. A specialist assessment team will assess your needs, and your eligibility for respite care.

To find respite care in your area, contact: 


If you’re unhappy with your respite service, talk directly with the service provider. It might be something that can be easily fixed. Or you might consider choosing a different respite service.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the service provider, or if the problem isn’t fixed, you can make a complaint.

If the respite service is funded by the Australian Government, contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.

If the respite service is funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission on 1800 035 544.

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Last updated
1 February 2024