According to Alzheimer’s Australia, there are currently 413,106 people in Australia living with dementia.
Due to the high number of debilitating symptoms, such as memory loss, a difficulty in performing simple tasks, and an inability to communicate effectively at times, most people with the condition are unable to support themselves independently.
This leaves families with two options. They can opt to put their loved one in a residential care home, or take on the role of carer and look after them themselves.
For those that choose to become carers for their loved one, it can be a difficult experience for both individuals involved.
While respite care services are available to support carers during difficult times, there is an increasing concern that there need to be additional services to specifically help those with dementia.
The increased concern has prompted some experts in the field to try and expand the types of respite care resources available for those with dementia.
Earlier this year, Alzheimer’s Australia worked with the University of Wollongong and Carers Australia to create a resource booklet for families to better understand how respite care can help people with dementia, as well as the specific types of services available, such as day respite and overnight respite.
The booklet, ‘Flexible Respite Services for People with Dementia and their Carers’ also helps people understand how to access these various types of services.
A Growing and Diverse Clientele
Resources like the booklet co-created by Alzheimer’s Australia say that while respite care services can help those with dementia, there is not enough focus on the individual and specialised needs that people with conditions like dementia may have.
Alzheimer’s Australia National Chief Executive Officer Maree McCabe said that a new approach is “essential to ensure that best practice in respite care is being delivered in the care and support of people with dementia and carers.”
“As both the aged care and disability sectors move to consumer-directed and individualised funding models, it is vital that respite services ensure they are flexible and responsive to the needs of people living with dementia, their families and carers,” she continued.
Caring for the Carers
But it’s also about the carers too. Being a carer can be a very demanding job, both physically and mentally, and not taking advantage of respite care when needed can cause a number of problems later down the line.
“For carers it is essential they take time to look after themselves and know how to access quality and flexible respite services to do so,” explained Ms McCabe.
Respite care also allows carers a break from time to time to catch up and socialise with friends, which can be very important due to many carers often feeling very isolated upon taking up the role.
Mrs Gard from Canberra knows all about the benefits of respite care – for both herself and her husband, Bryan, who suffers from dementia.
“Respite care gives me a chance to do something on my own that I enjoy, attend errands or just to give me a break from my carer role,” she said.