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By Emily Acraman, Parent to Parent Researcher

Being a family caregiver for a disabled person, or person with a health impairment can be a stressful and demanding responsibility. That’s why making the time to get a break is extremely important for your own wellbeing, for the wellbeing of your disabled family member and for your whole family.

Often when we talk about getting a break, we use the term respite. Respite simply means taking time out or having a break from your responsibilities as a carer. This will mean different things to different people. Some people may see exercise as a form of respite, or spending time in the garden. For others these activities might be just another stressful chore. The importance here is that respite is time spent the way you choose to spend it. Respite can be anything that makes you feel energised, relaxed and refreshed, and is an investment into the health and wellbeing of yourself and your family.    

What supports are available for family carers to assist them to get a break?

Respite funding is provided by the Ministry of Health. To access respite funding, you need to talk to your local Needs Assessment and Service Coordination organisation (NASC).

Types of respite funding that may be available include:

Carer Support

Carer support provides reimbursement of some of the costs of using a support person to care for your disabled family member while you take a break. Often this support person may be someone the family/whanau/person already knows. It can be used, in your home, in another person’s home or in the community (e.g., school holiday programme).

Individualised Funding

Individualised funding is a personal budget which gives the disabled person the control and choice in terms of what supports they need. It provides families with flexibility around how they use the allocated budget, what they pay support workers and who they would like to employ. This can also include purchasing items which enable the carer to get a break. For example, technology, arts and crafts, sensory items etc. There are purchasing guidelines around what you can and can’t spend the budget on, these can be found here.

Home Support

Where a provider who holds a ministry of health contract provides a support person or buddy at an hourly rate to assist the disabled family member in the home or community (e.g., after school activity).

Facility Based Support

This is a more formal respite service, where the disabled family member stays at a respite house or facility. You can see a list of the facility-based respite options in your area here.

Top tips for getting a break

Think about what a break means to you

Consider what you could do that would help you to feel refreshed and recharged.

Make a plan

Respite doesn’t just happen. You need to plan for it. Sit down with the calendar or weekly schedule and figure out where you can schedule some time for yourself.

Make it regular

Often having a regular commitment to take some scheduled time for yourself can make it easier to navigate. It can also be something to look forward to after a difficult day or week.

Think outside the box

You may need to think outside the box to make the options you have available work for you. For example, if a friend or family member pops over for a visit, don’t feel you need to entertain them. Use the time to read a book or have a break while they spend time with your disabled family member.

Ask for help

Ask for help from family and friends or people that know your family member well. Many family carers find it difficult asking for help, but having help and support can make a huge difference to your own and your family’s health and well-being.

Flexible funding options

Use flexible funding (e.g. Individualised funding) to make a plan that works for you and your family member. Get creative with your funding options and seek out stories from families who have used flexible funding to work for them.

Helpful resources

Family stories: Alternatives to traditional respite – https://parent2parent.org.nz/alternatives-to-respite-care/

Care Matters – Getting a break – https://carematters.org.nz/getting-a-break/

Carers NZ Time Out Guide: https://carers.net.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CarersNZ_Time-Out-Guide_Feb19-WEB.pdf

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