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Cottage dementia respite could delay aged care for years, says study


Cottage respite may cost more than a stay in an aged care facility, but it can help people with dementia to live at home for up to five years longer according to new research, offering significant long-term savings.

Professor Chris Poulos

Cottage respite provides short-term care in a modified home in the community, and can accommodate several people.

But there are still limited options when it comes to cottage respite, due to relatively high  start-up and running costs compared to residential facilities. The service represents only two per cent of available out-of-home overnight respite, according to the report, titled Perspectives of Australian family carers of people with dementia on the cottage model of respite compared to traditional models of residential respite provided in aged care facilities.

Study author and Head of Research at independent Christian service provider HammondCare, Professor Chris Poulos, says the findings confirm that cottage respite for people with dementia should be prioritised in future aged care planning and funding.

“This is a small, personalised model, with a completely different atmosphere to an institutionalised aged care facility,” he told Community Care Review.

“For people living with dementia and their caregivers, cottage respite allows them to live like they would at home.”

Cottage respite also offers more flexibility than aged care homes, where residents often have to commit to a two-week stay. Cottages also allow the person requiring care to get used to the home gradually before they spend time without their carer or sleep the night.

Those needing the service may spend just one night there per month, or they may stay on an ad hoc basis for up to 10 days if their carer is unavailable – often at very short notice.

HammondCare, backed by SA health, is currently building  a cottage-style 78-bed specialist dementia facility at the Repat Health Precinct in Daw Park, Adelaide, to care for people dementia who have complex care needs.

Potential long term savings of $100,000

Cottage respite enables people living with dementia to remain at home for an extra 15 months on average and sometimes up to five years, the report showed. With residential aged care costing up to $80,000 per year, an extra 15 months at home can amount to savings of $100,000, says Professor Poulos.

“That will pay for a great deal of cottage respite,” he said, “which makes it very cost-effective in the long run.”

Despite clear demand, the research showed that there are only 55 locations that offer cottage respite around Australia – compared to 2046 residential aged care homes, which makes it an inaccessible care option for most Australians living with dementia at home.

Professor Poulos hopes the report will raise awareness of how an expanded cottage respite network can play a vital part in the future care of older people and people with dementia, and help them to stay at home for as long as possible.

“Cottage respite offers a much more person-centric approach, it’s much more flexible and it’s much more appropriate to the needs of a number of people living with dementia and to their caregivers.”

“Only people with dementia and their carers will fully understand how vital this service is and the profound difference it makes to their quality of life and the choice they make to stay living in the community.”

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