Barriers to Respite: A Case Study of a Sub-Group from an Older Carers Program in Western Australia
La Trobe University
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
The past two decades have seen a growing awareness of the unique challenges faced by carers and recognition of their valuable contribution to society. Accordingly, assumptions about caregiving (and receiving) are changing; researchers and policy-makers alike are beginning to incorporate notions which pay at least lip service to supporting or empowering caregivers and receivers through needs-led rather than service-led support. However, there remains a significant lack of understanding of many of the issues faced by carers and care-recipients. This lack of understanding surfaces in polices and programs that tend to ignore the experiences of significant cohorts of carers, particularly older cares, Indigenous carers and carers from remote regions. The program upon which this paper is based is unique in that it does indeed address many of the identified gaps in service provision vis-à-vis older carers in the community. The Western Australian (WA) Australian Red Cross (ARC) Older Carers Program (OCP) was developed to support the unique needs of carers aged 65 years and older (50 if Indigenous) who care for a person aged 18 years or older and who have a permanent disability. The aim of the program was to provide intensive case planning, management and volunteer support that would assist older carers to more readily access respite and continue their caring role. To achieve this end, ongoing, individualised and holistic assistance involving carers in decision-making was an integral component of the OCP processes and activities. Nevertheless, in the course of our evaluation research of the program we found that, despite the overall success of the program in meeting its objectives, significant barriers to respite existed among a significant group of participants (which we will call a "sub-group"). Our research identified these subgroups as rural carers, single parents/carers, carers of high-need care recipients and "highly stressed" carers. These unique needs in turn formed barriers to access and are an important consideration in further debate around the important issue of older carers in the community and respite care programs in Australia.