Estimating service demand for respite care among informal carers of people with psychological disabilities in Australia

Meredith Harris, Sandra Diminic, Caroline Marshall, Emily Stockings, Louisa Degenhardt
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2015, 39 (3): 284-92

OBJECTIVE: To estimate service demand (willingness to seek or use services) for respite care among informal, primary carers of people with a psychological disability and to describe their characteristics.

METHODS: Analysis of data from the household component of the 2009 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers (n=64,213 persons).

RESULTS: In Australia in 2009, 1.0% of people aged 15 years or over (177,900 persons) provided informal, primary care to a co-resident with a psychological disability. One-quarter (27.2%) of these carers reported service demand for respite care, of whom one-third had used respite services in the past three months and four-fifths had an unmet need for any or more respite care. A significantly greater percentages of carers with service demand for respite care spent 40 or more hours per week on caregiving, provided care to a person with profound activity restrictions and reported unmet support needs, compared to carers without service demand. Lack of suitable, available respite care models was a barrier to utilisation.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings confirm significant service demand for, and under-utilisation of, respite care among mental health carers.

IMPLICATIONS: Increased coverage of respite services, more flexible service delivery models matched to carers' needs and better integration with other support services are indicated.

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