Caring for a loved one at home is very rewarding, but it also brings its own challenges and carers, whether paid or unpaid, need breaks just like everyone else. Sometimes it can also be beneficial for the person who needs elderly care to have a change as well, so here is the information you need about carers’ breaks and respite care.
Your local authority has a duty to assess the needs of any carer who requests an assessment. The assessment may take the form of a one to one meeting or may be a telephone or online discussion between you and a trained person who will consider the impact that your caring duties have on your life and how your support needs could be met. When the assessment has been completed, the local authority will write to you regarding their decision.
If the assessment determines that you have ‘eligible needs’, the council will be in contact with you to discuss what assistance may be available. This could be in the form of financial help or practical support.
Even if you are not eligible for support from your local authority, getting an assessment can still be valuable as they can put you in touch with other agencies such as voluntary organisations who may be able to help.
Replacement care options
Replacement care is needed to replace the care that you would typically deliver when you need a break. This may just be for a night so that you are able to catch up on your sleep, or maybe for a week or two to allow you take a holiday and recharge your batteries.
If caring for your loved one has taken a toll on your own health and well-being, you may need to consider replacement care for a longer period.
Respite care in a care home
Respite care can be provided in a care home or certain other institutions such as hospices. This can help you in the long term, as regular breaks can sometimes be enough to help you carry on providing care at home for your loved one.
If you opt for residential respite care, it is important to find a home that both you and your loved one are happy with. If your elderly relative understands that they will only be in the home for a limited time, they will probably accept the arrangement more readily.
If your elderly relative is living with dementia, they may be anxious and confused about having to move into a care home. Although many homes offer dementia care on a short-term basis, you may find that the disruption that residential respite care causes means that it is simply not worthwhile.
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Respite care at home
You could opt for a live-in carer to provide respite care while you have a break. This means much less disruption for your loved one and is easier to organise if the care recipient is reluctant to leave their own home. A live-in carer will also take care of the house and domestic tasks while you are away.
Replacement care does not have to be full time. You may find that carers can come into the home and assist at different times to allow you to have a break during the day or the night.
For example, if you arrange for night services two or three nights a week so that you can have a good sleep, this may be enough to allow you to cope the rest of the time.
Alternatively, a carer could visit in the mornings to help with getting your loved one out of bed, washed and dressed and prepare their breakfast. This would make your caring day shorter and allow you to spend more quality time with your loved one. Someone coming to take your loved one out for a couple of hours can also give you a much-needed break.
You may just need to get out once or twice a week to meet friends or enjoy a hobby or favourite activity, and someone coming into the home to provide companion care for your loved one can help you to do this.
If you are your loved one’s full-time carer, you may find that daycare centres offer some respite in the week. Sometimes you can also arrange for your relative to be transported to and from daycare so that you have most of the day to catch up on essential tasks and have some time to yourself.
Paying for respite care
If your local authority has agreed to help, this may be in the form of services that they organise or by direct payments. Direct payments can be used to pay for various services including paying home carers, funding a care home place or arranging breaks for both you and your loved one.
If you are assessed as ineligible for help from your local authority, you may still be able to access help from a benevolent fund or charity. You can find information about possible funding sources from local carers’ groups, your GP, social worker or health visitor.
You may decide to pay for the respite care or break you need yourself or to ask another family member to take over to give you a break.
If you do this, it is important to ensure that you leave all the information they need to provide care for your loved one. This may include a rough timetable and details of their preferences regarding food. An up-to-date list of the medication your loved one takes is essential, as is a list of contacts such as their GP and other family members.
Planning ahead will make your break more relaxed, and you will benefit from knowing that your loved one will be well cared for while you are away.
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