Factors influencing the use and provision of respite care services for older families of people with a severe mental illness

Yun-Hee Jeon, Lynn Chenoweth, Helen McIntosh
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 2007, 16 (2): 96-107
Family carers of people with a severe mental illness play a vital, yet often unrecognized and undervalued role in Australian society. Respite care services can assist these family carers in their role; however, little is known about their access to these services. The paper addresses this knowledge gap. An exploratory field study was conducted throughout the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Australia, to identify and examine the factors influencing the use and provision of respite services for older carers of people with a mental illness. Semistructured, in-depth interviews, and structured self-completed questionnaires were conducted with older family carers, mental health care professionals, and respite care service providers. Additionally, relevant documents (local policies, strategic plans and reports on respite care) were reviewed. It was found that current respite services are problematic for older family carers of Australians with a mental illness, signalling the need for concerted efforts by carers, health professionals, and service providers to improve access. Changes to respite provision and utilization are recommended.

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