Respite support allows you to take a break from your role as a carer to rest, recharge your batteries and relax by making alternative arrangements to support the person you are looking after. This could allow you to take a holiday, visit friends or family for a few days, or even just spend a day or evening out with friends. How long a break you take depends on your needs - you may need a few hours to yourself each week, a day here and there, a week or two for a holiday, or a mixture - and the needs of the person you care for.
It's only natural that many carers worry about taking a break from the person they look after. They may feel responsible for that person's wellbeing, and worried about how the person will cope without them. And they may not be sure how to arrange suitable alternative care.
However, it's important to realise that taking a break not only helps you, but also the person you look after, as it will leave you refreshed and more able to cope with the demands of being a carer.
If you've decided to take a break, you will want to make sure that there are arrangements in place for the person you look after. This is called respite care.
Arranging respite care with Friends and family
Friends and family members are often happy to take over caring for the person you are looking after in order to allow you to go on a short break or holiday. Sometimes you can arrange for friends or family to visit the person you are looking after and provide alternative care while you are away. Alternatively, it may mean that the person you are looking after will need to stay with a friend or relative while you take a break.
If you are already responsible for booking and paying for care arrangements for the person you look after, you can make arrangements for yourself. This could mean:
- employing a paid care worker to care for the person you are looking after in their own home
- paying for short-term support in a care home or alternative accommodation
- arranging for the person you look after to attend a day centre
- arranging a holiday for the person you are looking after.
See our section on choosing a care home for more information.
Respite support from your local council
If the person you look after has had a community care assessment, their support plan will have provision for respite care.
The social worker who carried out the assessment will have considered the health and social care needs of the person that you are looking after, and which community care services best meet those needs.
Through a support plan, respite care and assistance can be provided as:
- support in a care home or alternative accommodation (including Shared Lives) where the person you are looking after goes for a short stay
- a day-sitting service or domiciliary care service, where a care worker calls to allow you a break to go shopping, meet up with friends or have time for yourself; whilst providing support in the home for the person you care for
- day support, where the person you are looking after takes part in activities away from home during the day allowing you a break from caring
- help and support when you want to go on holiday by yourself or with the person you care for
Before you take your break
Before you go away, you may find it useful to make a list of things that the respite care providers will need to know about the person you look after, and pass it on to them or discuss it with them. This will help you to have peace of mind and relax in the knowledge that everything will be taken care of.
Here's some things you may want to consider including:
- what they like to eat, any allergies or dislikes, and when their mealtimes are
- any medicines they need to take or treatments they receive
- their usual daily or weekly routine - for example if they usually attend a day centre, or like to watch particular television programmes, or read a particular newspaper
- a list of contacts, which should include the doctor's number and the numbers of any other medical professionals involved in the care of the person you are looking after, as well as numbers for nearby family members and friends
- your number, in case of emergencies
- if you have an emergency plan (which sets out what should be done in an emergency) then make sure you go through the details of this with the people who will be providing alternative care.
Getting help with the costs of your break
For many carers, taking even a few days away can seem like an impossible dream. Even when respite care is sorted out, going away can simply be too expensive or too difficult.
You may also be able to get help with the cost of going on holiday, either alone or with the person you are looking after, from a charity or benevolent fund. Your social worker or local carers support group should be able to provide you with more information on local charities, organisations, benevolent funds and other possible sources of funding.
You could also consider a care holiday, where you go on holiday with the person you're looking after, with additional specialist support on hand to ensure you both have an enjoyable time.
The Carers' Flexible Fund
The Carers Flexible Fund is a one off direct payment for carers. It offers carers more choice and flexibility in the support they need. Access to the fund is via a social worker and all applications must be accompanied by a Carer's Assessment. If your assessment identifies a need for example for a short break away, a training course or a leisure activity, you may be eligible. You can only apply to the Fund once within a 12 month period. For more information call the Peoples Contact Centre on 020 8770 6080 or speak to your social worker.
Coordinating your care arrangements
If you have a smart phone or a tablet then you can download the Jointly app; this makes caring for someone a little easier, less stressful and a lot more organised by making communication and coordination between those who share the care as easy as a text message.
Other information and advice
Sutton Carers Centre provides information, advice and support services for adult carers, parent carers, family carers, young carers and carers of people with mental health conditions. Find out more about the support the Carers Centre can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8296 5611, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alzheimer’s Society Sutton provides information, advice and support for carers and people with dementia. Find out more about the support Alzheimer’s Society Sutton can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8770 1875
The Carers Forum meets quarterly at Sutton Civic Offices, and is an opportunity for carers to discuss the latest developments in carer support services in Sutton, and meet other unpaid carers from across the borough. Contact Sutton Carers Centre for information on future forum dates, and to book your place at the forum: 020 8296 5611, email@example.com.
Community Drug Service for South London (CDSSL) provides support for family members and carers of substance misusers. Find out more about the support CDSSL can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8773 1881, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Age UK Sutton provides information, advice and support to older people and their carers. Find out more about the support Age UK can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8770 4090, contact details/form.
Sutton Centre for Independent Living (SCILL) provides information and advice for carers and the people they care for. Find out more about the support SCILL can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8770 4065, email@example.com.
Sutton Citizens Advice Bureaux provides information and advice around finances (including benefits, debt and other financial matters). Find out more about the support the Sutton CAB can offer you by getting in touch: 020 8405 3552, contact us.
Sutton Mental Health Foundation provides information, advice and support for people with mental health conditions and their carers. Find out more about the support SCILL can offer you by getting in touch using the details below: Tel: 020 8770 0172, firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a regular programme of support groups and meetings for carers in Sutton – take a look at our page on local support groups for carers to find out more.
NHS Choices Carers Direct has useful information and advice on respite care and the value of breaks for carers
Carers UK has advice on respite care, as well as directories of respite care providers, and holiday companies that specialise in breaks for carers or care holidays.
Carers Trust offers information on respite care.