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Supporting Australian carers and people with dementia to ‘ReThink Respite’

With the number of carers in Australia set to rise to 377,900 by 2025, respite care is an increasingly crucial component of support that can assist people with dementia to stay living at home for as long as possible. For this potential to be fully realised, a new approach to respite care for people living with dementia is needed.

With the support of Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation and Resthaven Inc, researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) have developed an innovative project to support carers and people living with dementia to develop their confidence, navigate the service system and ‘rethink’ how respite could be beneficial in helping them to achieve their personal goals.

ReThink Respite commenced as a community based research program during 2015-2016 in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven region of NSW. The project included use of local media, group education sessions and a free 10-week face to face coaching program to promote respite as a part of positive caregiving.

Overall, the program supported carers to work towards personal goals, learn more about respite and dementia, navigate the system and overcome common barriers to using respite.

Creator of ReThink Respite and researcher from UOW Australian Health Services Research Institute, Dr Lyn Phillipson, said that the focus of the project was on gaining further knowledge and a different perspective towards the potential benefits of respite service and strategies:

“The project also included a service development component, with providers of respite in the local area being supported to ‘rethink’ how the needs of people with dementia could be better met by the programs they were offering,” she said.

“Caring for a person with dementia can be a positive experience, however the challenges can cause feelings of exhaustion and frustration and many carers feel guilty to ask for support. For many, navigating the service system can be just another task they don’t have the energy to deal with.

 “With regards to ReThink Respite, we have received positive feedback about the education and face to face coaching helping carers to feel more confident about using respite.”

Get involved with ReThink Respite Online

This year ReThink Respite are providing a national online education program ‘Rethink Respite Online’ which will increase the reach of the program to a larger audience of carers that might not otherwise receive support.

The free program supports carers to work towards personal goals, learn more about respite and dementia, navigate the system and overcome common barriers to using respite by gaining an informed attitude towards the potential benefits of respite service and strategy use.

Creator of the online coaching and education program Dr Elizabeth Cridland, said:

“Many carers of people with dementia face barriers to using respite such as difficulty navigating the service system and knowing what services are available to them, and uncertainty about the benefits of respite for the person they support.”

“’ReThink Respite Online’ aims to address these barriers by providing information and support to navigate the service system and understand the potential benefits of respite for both people with dementia and carers.

“The online format of the program means carers can access the topics at a time that is convenient for them. This flexibility has made the program very appealing for carers who work or may otherwise be unable to attend carer groups or education seminars about the service system.”

The online program is currently available to any carer of a person living with dementia in Australia who has access to the internet and basic internet skills. The program is offered in all states and territories in Australia, except for Victoria and Western Australia, as these states offer a different delivery of services.

For more information on the online program or to enrol contact Dr Liz Cridland via email: liz_cridland@uow.edu.au, phone: (02) 4221 4226 or click here. For more information on respite and available services and strategies, visit the ReThink Respite website.

Sources: 

‘ReThink Respite’ was supported by a Resthaven Inc. Dementia Research Award through the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation. It represents the work of a team from the University of Wollongong (Dr Lyn Phillipson (Project Leader), Dr Elizabeth Cridland, Associate Professor Helen Hasan, Dr Danika Hall and Dr Keryn Johnson) in collaboration with Dr Elaine Fielding (QUT) and Associate Professor Christine Neville (UQ). ‘ReThink Respite Online’ (Dr Elizabeth Cridland, Dr Lyn Phillipson and Dr Trevor Crow, UOW) is also supported by an Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation Project Grant.

Pictured: Dr Lyn Phillipson (project leader) and Dr Helen Hasan (co-investigator) explore the ‘Rethink Respite’ website with Illawarra carer support group leader Val Fell

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