respite careWhile caring can be hugely rewarding, it's also important that carers and care workers remain healthy themselves.

If you're an unpaid carer, there may be significant physical and psychological demands placed upon you.

Although unpaid carers may be supported by professional care workers, who assist with additional tasks, it's important that all involved in an individual's care have access to help when it's required.

This is where respite care plays an important role. Read on to discover how it may help you.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is the temporary support that's organised when the primary caregiver needs a break.

As carers and their loved ones can both feel a degree of burnout from their time together, respite care can provide each party the opportunity to recharge.

For the care recipient, a professional care worker can provide temporary live in care or home visits, or alternatively going into a care home for a short time is possible. 

While this change of environment can be beneficial for your loved one, as a carer it can allow you to have a holiday and an important break from your responsibilities.

How Long Does Respite Care Last?

That very much depends upon your situation and the needs of the individual requiring care. Some carers provide cover for a few hours a week, while others work in excess of 50, assisting with all aspects of daily living, from toileting, to washing and dressing.

Therefore the intervention that's required to provide sufficient cover can vary too. A carer might simply require some home help to provide a sitting service for a few hours each week while they run errands or attend appointments. 

Other carers, operating in a full time capacity, may require an extended holiday, in which case their loved one could choose a residential care facility with trained staff on hand. This stay could range from a few weeks to a few months, depending upon individual circumstances.

Why Is Respite Care Important?

Acting as a carer is a demanding role, and many in this position are regularly on call throughout the week. 

Unlike normal jobs with regular hours, start and finish times don't always apply to carers, who have to work when support is needed.

Sometimes the work can be physical, and despite equipment like zimmer frames, transfer boards and hoists helping, many carers begin to develop their own aches and pains, which would benefit from a rest.

In addition, the psychological impact of being a primary carer, even with support from professional care workers, can be huge. The feeling that you're always on hand just in case, can make it difficult to truly relax and focus on your own wellbeing.

Who Is Respite Care For?

Respite care can be appropriate for many different individuals requiring care. Here are some examples:

  • Respite care for children
  • Respite care for adults
  • Respite care for the elderly
  • Respite care for dementia sufferers
Most health and social care providers are able to provide for a range of conditions and needs. Home care agencies generally offer a full spectrum of care, which can be adjusted to suit you. 

Residential care homes have trained staff available 24 hours a day so you can relax knowing your friend and relative is well looked after. 

For more complex medical conditions, care homes with nursing (requiring a specialist license) are supervised by a qualified nurse who can attend to any special medical needs and monitor health conditions.

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What Services Does Respite Care Offer?

Respite care can generally cater for every service your loved one usually receives: 

  • Supervision
  • Companionship
  • Attending appointments
  • Cooking
  • Shopping
  • Housework
  • Pet care
  • Mobility assistance
  • Medication prompting
  • Personal care
  • Nursing care

The services offered may differ depending on whether you've arranged home care or your loved one goes into a care home. 

You'll have to talk to your respite care provider to discuss your individual needs before creating a care plan for your specific situation.

How Is Respite Care Organised and How Much Does It Cost?

This depends on whether you're organising it yourself. If there's a support network close by, some carers may ask friends and family to cover them while they take a break.

In other instances, it's advisable to talk to your local authority to see if you may be eligible for extra help.

This may be done via a needs assessment for the person receiving care or a carer's assessment for the primary carer. Afterwards financial assessments may be undertaken to determine how much you're able to contribute to the arrangements.

If you're eligible for support, the individual receiving care may be allocated a personal budget to pay for any extra support the council would normally provide. The money can be used on services agreed in the assessment support plan.

A carer's assessment can result in a carer being allocated their own personal budget, to cover anything required in the caring support role. This could include travel expenses, gym memberships, driving lessons or a holiday.

Sometimes the local authority can arrange the agreed services themselves or via care vouchers (respite grants/carers' grants). 

Charities and benevolent funds exist, some of which contribute towards the cost of going on holiday, either alone or with the person you care for (unfortunately The Care Workers Charity does not provide funding for this).

Lastly, if friends and family are unable to provide extra help and you're ineligible for local authority support, there's the option of paying for the services yourself. What's available to you in this situation will very much depend on your budget, how much care you loved one requires and the services available locally.

We hope this introductory guide to respite care has answered some of your questions. If you would like more impartial advice and information about UK care services, click here for more information.