What is respite care?
Respite care means taking a break from caring, while the person you care for is looked after by someone else. There are many reasons why you, or the person you care for, might benefit from respite care.
For you as carer: it might be that you need a regular break from caring to deal with your own day-to-day affairs and family commitments, or a couple of days off a week to work or study. You might need to take a couple of weeks off to address your own health issues, or to simply rest and recharge your batteries.
Looking after someone is physically draining and emotionally draining, and you need a little bit of respite yourself.
For the person needing care: there may be times that the person you usually care for needs specialist care that you’re unable to provide. For example, they might need short-term nursing care following an illness or operation, or to prevent admission to hospital.
A short stay in a residential home, for example while you go on holiday, can also be a good opportunity for the person you care for to ‘trial’ a particular care home if they are thinking of making a permanent move.
Types of respite care
There are many different options to allow you to take a break from caring. The type of respite care you choose will depend on your circumstances and the level of care that the person you look after needs. The main choices are:
- Day care centres
- Respite care and support at home
- Respite care in a care home
- Organising friends and family to help
- Respite holidays
Why is respite care important?
Respite care can bring benefits to both carers and those needing care.
For carers: caring is an important role, but shouldn’t completely take over your life. Being a carer can be very demanding, taking up a lot of emotional and physical energy. Respite care allows you to take the break from the day-to-day responsibilities of caring, safe in the knowledge that your loved one is still getting the care that they need.
Carers often feel worried or guilty about taking time off, but it’s important to find a balance between caring and looking after yourself. Taking a break from caring can give you valuable time to focus on your own friends and family, home, job and personal health and wellbeing. You will be able to provide better care if you’re not exhausted and run down.
For the person needing care: respite care can also have positive benefits for the person being cared for:
- Attending a day centre or going on a ‘respite holiday’ can be enjoyable, giving your loved one the opportunity to meet new people and take part in different activities.
- A holiday or a trip to a relative’s house can provide a welcome change of scenery for the person you care for, particularly if they spend a lot of time in their own home.
- An opportunity to test out alternative services or carers that may be needed in the future (for example, if the situation deteriorates or an emergency occurs).
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