Caring for someone can be hard and getting time off isn’t easy. Most carers need a break from time to time. It’s really important that you try to build in some time off for yourself, however hard that may seem.
You may want a short break of just an hour or two, a whole day or longer. What kind of break and for how long will depend on your circumstances and the type of care and support that the person you care for requires. Respite care can mean lots of different things and can mean the person you care for having a short stay in a care home, attending a day service or receiving alternative care at home.
Where to start?
It may be the case that you are able to leave the person you care for, but you feel guilty about taking some time for yourself. Remember, you have needs too. If you are able to do something that you enjoy, it will ‘recharge your batteries’ and help sustain you in your caring role. Ultimately, both of you will benefit. Prioritising yourself is not selfish!
If you have family and friends around you it may be worth asking if they can help out. It can be hard to ask for help and it can also be hard for people to offer support if they are unsure of what is needed. All families and friendships are different but consider talking to them to express how you are feeling and what would help. Consider calling a family conference or writing a letter to loved ones to express how you feel and what you need. You might say something like, ‘I think it would do me good to go back to my weekly art class and to have a day off occasionally. I thought I would ask the family if they can help in any way before I approach local services to see what they offer’. Obviously this is not an option for everyone.
If arranging time off from your caring role isn't something you can organise yourself or support from family and friends you will need a carer's assessment which will give you access to funded or partially funded respite options. So if you want the council to pay for respite care for either yourself as a carer or the person you look after, it's important that you both have an assessment.
The person you're looking after should have a needs assessment. Even if they don't want council funding, it's still useful for the person you look after to have a needs assessment as it will say which type of respite care is most suitable.
Different types of respite care
The main types of respite care are:
- day care centres
- homecare from a paid carer
- a short stay in a care home
- respite holidays
Day care centres
Day care centres offer a chance for people who find it difficult to get out and about to socialise, make friends and take part in activities.
For example, day care centres might offer tea dances, singing, games and arts and crafts. Some offer hairdressing, foot care and assisted bathing.
Transport is often provided, but there may be a charge. To qualify for council-funded day care centre visits, the person you look after will need to have had a needs assessment.
Help at home from a paid carer
If you care for someone and need more time for yourself, you can arrange for a paid carer to help at their home. This is also called homecare. It might be regular (for example, one day a week so that you can work, study or have a day off) or for a short period, such as a week, so you can take a holiday.
If the person you care for needs 24-hour supervision, you can arrange live-in care. To qualify for council-funded homecare, the person you look after will need to have had a needs assessment.
Contact Middlesbrough Adult Social Care Access Team- 01642 726004 and explore your options.
You could also search the NHS website for a list of local homecare agencies and a list of national homecare organisations or ask the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHMA) for a list of approved homecare agencies in your area.
A short stay in a care home
Some care homes offer short-term respite care.
It can be difficult to get respite space at short notice, but some care homes take advance bookings which can help you to plan ahead, for example if you want to book a holiday.
Take a look at some local care home options. You will need to speak with the provider directly to find out if they offer short-term respite care.
Respite holidays allow carers and people with illnesses or disabilities, to take a break from everyday life. Here are some services that can help:
- MindforYou offer supported holidays in the UK for people who are living with dementia and their carers to enjoy together
- some charities, such as Revitalise, offer subsidised holidays for elderly or disabled people
- Family Fund has grants towards the cost of holidays for families on a low income who are caring for a child with a severe disability
- Family Holiday Association has breaks at holiday sites, or grants to help with the cost of a holiday, to low-income families. You need to be referred by your social worker, GP or health visitor, or by a charity or other welfare agent
Emergency respite care
Think about who you could contact in an emergency if you couldn't reach the person needing care, for example, due to an accident or sudden illness.
This might be another relative, friend or neighbour who could step in for a few hours while proper arrangements are made.
Make sure they:
- have door keys or know the code to a key safe
- know the type of care the person you look after will need – this may be as simple as sitting and chatting with them, making a meal for them or helping them take their medicines
Write some notes about what kind of care the person you look after needs and leave them in a prominent place to help anyone who steps in to help at a moment's notice.
These notes could include essential information on medicines, and any dos and don'ts for the substitute carer to be aware of.
Carers Together can provide a free Carers Card which offers peace of mind for the carer and for the person they care for, knowing an agreed plan can be activated in an emergency.
Paying for respite care
According to the UK care guide, respite care costs on average £700-800 a week.
It can be as much as £1,500 a week, for emergency respite care, live-in care, or staying in a care home.
There are 2 main ways of getting help with the costs of respite care:
- from the council
- from a charity
Or, you can pay for it yourself.
From the council
If you or the person you care for qualifies for respite care, the council will do a financial assessment to work out if it will pay towards it. If you or the person you care for qualifies for council-funded respite care, you can ask the council to arrange it for you, or you can do it yourself through a personal budget or direct payment.
From a charity
The charity, Turn2us, can help to find grants for people who need respite care but can't afford it.
Age UK Teesside have a service that provides regular time off for carers, by providing befriending volunteers to the carers loved one, which allows carers to have the opportunity to have time for themselves. Find out more.
Paying for it yourself
If the person you care for has to pay for their own respite care, they might be able to raise money towards this from:
- income from pensions, work, investments or property
- benefits, such as Attendance Allowance