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.
First steps to getting a break from caring
Help from friends or family
Give yourself permission to have time for yourself
Are there any day centres locally that the person I care for could attend?
What about lunch clubs or activity groups?
Bringing someone into the home, to give you a break
Do care homes take people for short stays and respite?
A holiday with the person you care for could still be a break
Is there any help to pay for taking a break from caring?
A good place to start is by having a carer’s assessment. Talking things through with someone else will help you with a plan of action. They can help you explore what type of break would suit you best and what options are open to you. If the assessment highlights a clear need for a short break to sustain you in your caring role, the council can offer support in the form of a payment towards the cost of the break.
In order for you to have that break, the person you care for might need someone else to help with their care and support. See practical support for options that are available.
Sometimes relatives or friends can help out. It can be hard to ask, but often friends and family are happy to help. They may want to offer support but are not sure what is needed. All families are different but consider talking to family members 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’.
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.
It may be possible to arrange a place at a day centre or club. Local councils and many charities or social enterprises run specialist day services. You can either go through your local council or arrange something directly with the day centre. If the person you care for is not eligible for council funding it can be quite expensive. See our help from my local council section for a full list of day centres. You may want to accompany the person the first time they go and make sure they feel settled.
An increasing number of activities are run locally by charities, churches and community groups. The Wellaware database is a good place to have a look for clubs and activity groups.
Interest groups are wide-ranging from music to gardening. Some clubs offer transport and some cater specifically for certain groups of people, e.g. older people or those with mental health needs.
You could consider buying in care at home from an agency. This could be on a one–off basis or could be regular support coming into the home. Choosing the right care will affect the quality of your life, family life and the person you care for, so it’s essential to choose the provider who will give the best all round service for all of your needs – this information from the Carers Trust may help you.
There is lots of useful information on NHS choices about care and support providers. You can find out about things to think about and search for a care agency.
Which also produce useful information and a directory of care agencies.
You can check the rating of any provider you are considering on the Care Quality Commission website.
Care at home can also be arranged through the local authority. Assuming the person needing care and support agrees, they would have an assessment of need and a financial assessment to determine whether they meet the threshold for help from the council and how much they will have to contribute to the cost. The local authority may then put the service in place or contribute to a budget for you and the person you care for to make your own arrangements.
You may need to phone quite a few agencies because their services are in demand. Care agencies find it easier to accommodate more substantial packages of care. If you are initially looking for something short-term to see how it goes, but think you may need more help in the future, explain this to the agency.
It is now common for people to employ individual care workers or personal assistants. This gives you greater choice and control in being able to choose someone you feel comfortable with. You could employ someone you already know – a friend or, in some circumstances, a family member. However it does mean extra responsibilities as an employer which is not for everyone.
If you choose to employ someone directly you could consider using a specialist company. They can help you through the process and will take on some of the tasks, like contracts and payroll. You can find out more about these organisations in Bristol on the Bristol City council website and in South Gloucestershire on the South Gloucestershire council website.
Disability Rights UK has produced a fact sheet on employing a personal assistant or care worker yourself.
These options are open to you without going through the health and social care services of your local council. But if you need some assistance from the council to get these services, see section on help from my local council.
Some care homes will accept short term residents for a few days or a week. Before arranging this, do some research and visit a few homes. You will want to meet some of the staff to feel secure in the knowledge that a person will be well looked after.
In Bristol and South Gloucestershire carers report that they experience the following difficulties in trying to arrange respite:
- not all homes have bookable respite beds – it depends on vacancies at the time
- bookable respite beds are very limited
- it can be hard to book anything in advance
- it is difficult to find anything at very short notice unless it is an emergency
- many homes will not accept a booking for less than a whole week
There are a number of guides to choosing the right care home:
South Gloucestershire council have produced a factsheet about choosing a care home, with information about what to think about.
Bristol City Council has information about care homes on their website including a leaflet about things to think about when choosing a care home.
To look for a care home, with information on charges and current vacancies, go to the care home website.
The Care Quality Commission website can be used to check if the homes you are looking at have been inspected and how they are rated.
There are ways of taking a holiday with the person you care for, where you still feel as though you have had a break. It is important to choose the right holiday venue, enlist extra help if you can and only do chores that are absolutely necessary. You don’t have to cook every night!
See Holidays for more information.
If you have a carer’s assessment you can discuss getting a break from caring and one outcome may be a payment to enable you to take a break.
There are trusts and charities that may be able to help. Some are charities that help carers in particular because they recognise the importance and benefit to carers in having some time away from caring. You can search for grants on the Turn 2 Us grants search.
If, in order for you to take a break, the person you care for needs alternative care that you cannot arrange privately, the local council can arrange respite care. However, there is likely to be a charge for this. The amount is determined following a means test of the person receiving the respite care. See section on paying for care.
Carers Trust has some information on their website about paying for respite care.