Respite for carers

As published in La Fiamma, L’Angolo Della Terza Eta 4 November 2013

Rita was 52 when she quit her job to care for her disabled mother-in-law Grazia. After six months of caring full-time for Grazia, Rita started to feel depressed and isolated.  A friend suggested to Rita that she ring Co.As.It. to find out what services were available to assist both herself and Grazia. Rita rang the Intake Officer and was referred to the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre to arrange respite care (a break from caring). In addition to this, Grazia was referred for assessment and placed on a waiting list for Co.As.It.’s centre-based day care.  Twelve months later, a vacancy arose in Grazia’s area.  Initially Grazia was reluctant to attend but after the first session, Grazia was more than happy to go again.

Each week Grazia is picked up by the Co.As.It. bus from her home and taken to a centre where she spends a few hours with other elderly people of Italian background. On a typical day, she has morning tea and then plays tombola. Then she enjoys an Italian lunch prepared by Co.As.It. staff on the premises. After lunch, she joins in as best she can with a gentle physical exercise program or other activities. Grazia loves being able to speak Italian with the staff and other group participants.  She goes home tired but content.

Meanwhile Rita is free for a few hours each week to rest and relax. Sometimes she catches up with her friends for coffee or goes shopping. Other times she prefers to sit quietly at home by herself.  This regular break helps Rita to cope with her family responsibilities.

Last month Australia celebrated ‘Carers Week’, a national celebration of the 2.6 million unpaid carers in our community who care for a loved one.

There are many people in Australia who provide care and do not recognise themselves as carers. This means that these people are not currently accessing the services and supports that are available to them. Unpaid family carers experience one of the lowest rates of health and well-being in Australia. For more information go to

The National Respite for Carers Program was set up by the Australian government to support carers. To find out more about this program contact the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on free call 1800 052 222 during business hours or visit Alternatively, call myagedcare on 1800 200 422 visit the website

Centre-based day care also provides respite for carers. However the demand for these services is very high and waiting lists are long, especially in the inner west area of Sydney.  It can take several years to get an eligible person into a day care program. Therefore it is important that an elderly or frail person in need of centre-based day care be referred for assessment and, if eligible, be placed on a waiting list as soon as possible.

Co.As.It. offers centre-based day care for  the Italian community Sydney-wide, including three dementia-specific programs plus two multicultural groups in the Sutherland Shire. Staff are skilled and experienced bilingual workers who strive to create a warm and welcoming environment for participants. Currently there are a few vacancies in some Co.As.It. day care groups in Northern Sydney, including a dementia-specific group in North Ryde. For more information contact the Intake Officer on 9564 9744.

For enquiries or feedback about this article please contact Aged Care Service Improvement Coordinator, Pina Leyland, on 9564 0744 or email For the region of Wollongong please contact ItSoWel on (02) 4228 8222.

Respite for carers in Italian