Finding a Respite Care Service for Your Loved One: A Guide

Chris Williams
July 28, 2023

Respite care happens when a carer takes a break from caring, and the person they care for is looked after by someone else. It might be as simple as having someone sit with the person while the usual carer goes to the shops, or something longer term like a holiday or regular visits to a day centre.

Respite care helps both the caregiver and the person receiving care.

All kinds of caregivers need respite care. Whether you’re a family carer or a professional live-in carer, you need a break. Even though you’re a carer, you’re still your own person. You have your own interests and needs that should not be neglected. Taking time away from your caring responsibilities helps you to rest and recharge.

People with many health conditions may need respite care. It’s often used by people with long-term conditions, such as a learning disability, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or others with complex care needs.

Respite care can be planned in advance, but it’s sometimes also needed in an emergency. If you’re the sole carer for your loved one, it’s important to have an emergency plan in place. What would happen if you weren’t able to look after them? If you were taken ill suddenly or were otherwise unavailable, who would be able to provide care for them?

In this article, we’ll look at different types of respite care, how you can access it, and where you can find funding for respite care if necessary.

Types of respite care

When you’re considering respite care, it’s important to think about the support you need. Are you looking for help for a couple of hours or a longer break? Would your loved one or client prefer to stay in their own home, or would they like to get away on holiday or stay in a care home?

Respite day care

Respite day care can be provided at day centres (sometimes also called day services). These may be run by your local council, or charities such as Age UK. Some day services are held in purpose-built buildings, and some are attached to care homes or supported living schemes. Others might happen in community centres, village halls or places of worship.

Respite day care usually lasts for several hours, often similar to the duration of a school day. Your client or loved one will usually arrive there in the morning, take part in some activities, have lunch, and stay for some more activities and a cup of tea in the afternoon before being taken home.

Some day centres provide their own transport, or you may need to arrange transport.

At day centres, your loved one or client will be able to take part in activities, meet new people, and have a meal. Some day centres offer services such as supported bathing, hairdressing or foot care, or have a mobile shop come round to clients.

Activities on offer in day centres often include:

· Exercise classes

· Games and quizzes

· Singing and music sessions

· Arts and crafts sessions

· Book clubs

· IT workshops

· Dances and entertainment

· Day trips

Staff will be trained to support your client or loved one with many care tasks. However, it’s important to clarify with them what they can do before your loved one or client attends for the first time.

Some day centres cater specifically for people with certain conditions, such as dementia, whereas others may be for people over a certain age.

At-home respite care

Respite care doesn’t mean that your loved one or client needs to leave their home. A respite carer can come to the home and care for them there.

For many people, going out can feel too difficult, especially if they have complex needs or use a lot of medical equipment in their home. If your loved one or client feels anxious in new settings, respite care in their own home might be a good choice for them.

If your loved one or client receives respite care at home, you don’t need to worry about transport.

You’ll be able to talk a respite carer through your client or loved one’s needs and wishes. The carer can seamlessly take over caring for a time, while you take a break. This might be for a couple of hours, or for longer – even overnight.

If your loved one needs a lot of support during the night, you might choose to access a night-sitting service. This will allow you to get a good night’s sleep, safe in the knowledge that they're being cared for.

You might use home care respite as a one-off in an emergency, or choose to access it regularly. If you choose to make it a regular event, your loved one or client can get to know their new carer and form a bond with them. You’ll feel secure in the knowledge that you’re leaving them with someone you both trust.

At-home respite live-in care

If your loved one or client needs respite care for a longer time, you may choose to have a carer live in with them for a while. This might also be a good choice if you will be unavailable or unable to care for them for a while – for example, if you’re going on holiday or are unwell.

If you and your loved one don’t usually access live-in care, there are a few things to note:

· You’ll need to provide them with a spare bedroom to sleep in and store their things. This room needs to be clean and have adequate heating.

· You will have to provide food for a live-in carer. You might purchase food for them, or give them a food allowance. They will usually cook for themselves and your client or loved one.

· Live-in carers are entitled to breaks of around two hours each day.

Live-in carers will usually stay in the house with your loved one and be on call 24 hours a day, but they won’t be carrying out personal care for all of that time. If you suspect that your loved one needs more care throughout the day and night, you may prefer to hire multiple carers. Respite care at a nursing or care home could also be a possibility.

Respite holidays

Respite holidays let people who receive care have a change of scenery, while still receiving the support they need. Some respite holidays will be for you and your loved one together, whereas others might just be for your loved one, while you go on holiday elsewhere or spend some time at home.

Some organisations provide holidays around the UK, and others offer holidays across Europe or further afield.

Many respite holiday organisations can provide 24-hour on-call care, as well as equipment such as hoists, accessible bathroom facilities and medical beds. Some holidays are for people with certain conditions or disabilities, and others may have age limits. However, many are open to anyone who receives care.

Lots of respite holiday organisations are also charities and can offer support or advice to people who have questions about funding.

Respite holidays usually need to be booked in advance, so they can’t be used as emergency respite care.

Respite care at a care facility

Many care homes and nursing homes offer residential respite care for people who need it. This can be a good option for people who need 24-hour care.

If your loved one or client stays at a care facility, you’ll know that they’ll be receiving care from a variety of qualified professionals. They’ll be able to meet other residents and take part in activities.

This option can be difficult to arrange at very short notice, but many nursing and care homes will allow you to book ahead. This might work well if you’re planning a holiday or know that you won’t be able to provide care in advance.

Respite care from informal caregivers

Friends or family may be able to provide some respite care for your loved one.

Whether they’re able to do this for a short time, while you go out during the day, or have your loved one stay with them for a while, this is a valuable way to get a break from your caring responsibilities.

If a family member or friend is providing care for more than 35 hours a week, they may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance.

Why is respite care important?

Respite care helps everyone in the caring relationship. Whether you’re a family or informal carer, professional carer or the person receiving care, you’ll benefit from respite care.

If you’re an informal caregiver

If you’re a family caregiver, it’s easy to feel that you should be with your loved one at all times. You might feel that no one else can care for them like you do.

You may feel anxious the first time you leave your loved one with another carer or in another setting. Even so, it’s important to take time for yourself.

Caring can be a stressful and overwhelming job. You may not have expected to become a caregiver, and might be working alongside supporting your loved one. You might be worried about their health, as well as the changes to your relationship or your finances.

Even without the physical aspects of caring, it’s easy to see why family caregivers often struggle. It’s important to take away from your caring responsibilities to avoid carer burnout.

Burnout is a state of exhaustion, which can combine being physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. You may feel tired, worried, sad or angry all the time. It can lead to physical symptoms too, such as nausea, headaches and high blood pressure. You might lose interest in things that you normally enjoy, become more forgetful, or have trouble sleeping.

Carer burnout is usually caused by not having a break from the worries of being a carer. Making some time for yourself can make a huge difference. Whether it’s a couple of hours or longer, you can return to your caring responsibilities refreshed.

Having respite care lined up can also help if you’re worried about being the sole caregiver. Knowing that they would be in good hands if anything happened to you could give you peace of mind.

If you’re a professional carer

If you’re a professional carer, even if you live in, you’re legally entitled to regular breaks and time off. This includes:

· sick leave if you’re unwell

· annual leave – all workers in the UK are entitled to at least 28 days of paid leave each year

· a break each day of around two hours

As a live-in carer, you may be at your client’s home 24 hours a day in case you’re needed. However, you won’t be working for all of that time. You will probably have to do between six and ten hours of work each day. You also shouldn’t be expected to work throughout the day and night alone.

You may be required to provide help for some night wake-ups. However, if your client needs a high level of support overnight as well as in the day, they may need a second carer.

Respite care is there to provide any extra support that your client may need, while you rest or take time away. Respite carers can take over your duties and give you a break, so you can return refreshed.

If you’re the person receiving care

You might feel anxious about receiving care from someone else or travelling to a new location. It might feel particularly difficult if you have been used to one carer for a long time.

However, respite care is important for you too. You’ll receive better care in the future if your usual carer is well-rested. They need breaks to manage their own health, and respite care means that your needs will still be met.

Respite care may ease your mind if you’re concerned about your carer. Many people worry that their relationship with a loved one will change when they need care. It’s nothing personal, and no one’s fault, but becoming a carer can bring with it a wide variety of worries. Giving your carer a break from caring responsibilities can help your relationship. You’ll have new things to talk about, and you’ll probably quickly notice that they’re refreshed from the break.

Respite care can also be an opportunity to meet new people, try new activities or even go on holiday yourself.

Having a change of scenery or an activity to look forward to can be good for your mental health. Have you always dreamed of travelling to a particular place, or learning a certain skill? Respite holidays or day centres may be an opportunity to achieve this.

Where can I find respite care?

There are many ways to find respite care.

If you’re looking for an informal caregiver for a short time, you could ask family and friends for support. They might be happy to keep your loved one company for a few hours.

If you’re in contact with healthcare professionals, such as a district nurse or GP, they may be able to advise about what’s available locally.

You may be able to find respite care online. If you know what kind of support you’re looking for, you can search online for what’s available in your area. You could search for short-term care home placements, day centre visits, or respite care at home.

Your local authority might be able to recommend places to contact. You can contact your local authority’s adult social care department, who may be able to recommend local facilities.

Respite care funding

There are three main ways to pay for respite care:

· Council funding

· Support from charities

· Covering the costs yourself

You may be able to get funding from your local council for respite care. If you haven’t already, you can request a carer’s assessment for you as the carer, and a needs assessment for the person you care for. These assessments will help you decide which type of respite care is most suitable. Depending on your circumstances, the local authority may also be able to provide funding.

Some charities provide funding for respite care. If you or your loved one are involved with any organisations due to their health or previous employment (for example, if they have been in the Armed Forces), they may be able to offer some financial support. Turn2Us is an organisation that helps people search for grants that might help them.

If you don't qualify for any funding, you may be able to pay for respite care yourself. This could come from savings, income or benefits.

Respite care

Respite care is a hugely important form of care. It allows caregivers to take a break and remain healthy. It also supports people who receive care to continue receiving the support that they need.

You may be able to find respite care options online, or through recommendations from family, friends or health and social care professionals.

Depending on the needs of the person who receives care, there are many options for respite care. It can be as simple as asking a friend or family member to sit with your loved one while you go to an appointment, or it may last several days or weeks, allowing them to take a holiday and rest.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is respite care?

Respite care is a type of care that’s offered when your usual carer takes a break, and you’re cared for by someone else. It might happen in your own home, or you might go elsewhere for it. Respite care can happen in an emergency, or be planned in advance.

What are the different types of respite care?

There are many different types of respite care, including 1) Respite day centres (also known as day care or day services); 2) At-home respite care, where a respite carer either visits or lives in with the person who needs care; 3) Respite holidays; 4) Respite care at a care or nursing home; and 5) Respite care from informal carers, such as family members or friends.

What happens when someone goes into respite care?

The process will differ depending on the type of respite care they are accessing. In general, the person who is cared for, along with their usual carer, will discuss their needs and wishes with the respite carer or team. They will then put together a care plan. This will include their usual schedule and personal care needs, so that they and their usual carer can have peace of mind that they will be well looked after.

What questions should I ask a respite care provider?

When you’re looking for respite care, there are some questions you should always ask: · What qualifications, training and experience do the carers have? · What services or type of personal care do you provide? · Can you manage my loved one’s needs? · How far in advance can we plan respite care? If you’re not looking at in-home care, you should also ask about transportation, and ensure that they have any equipment (such as hoists or accessible bathrooms) that your loved one might need.

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