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In home respite care for the elderly

Quick summary

  • Caring for a loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging.
  • Respite care in the home allows primary carers to take a break – to reset and recharge.
  • This type of care is a short-term option, designed to minimise disruption and ensure continuity of care.

Respite care is an important aspect of any care plan as it’s beneficial for both the carer and care receiver. Being a home carer can be physically and mentally challenging at times and a break should always be taken and encouraged, as with any demanding role in life.

To minimise disruption in routine, respite care can be arranged to take place in the home. It’s generally a short-term option – and is specifically designed with the purpose of relieving the full-time carer.

What is respite care?

Respite care is a temporary form of care that allows carers to take a break. By allowing someone else to take over care duties for a short period of time – whether that be a few hours or a few days – it can be of great benefit to both the carer and care recipient.

This type of care can be used in a variety of ways and for different reasons, but the overarching purpose of respite care is to allow the primary carer to take a break. Different types of short-term care are available for other reasons – such as intermediate care for those being discharged from hospital.

This type of care can be performed in a residential care home, or at home by a visiting or live-in carer.

Respite care can be a number of things such as:

A respite carer performs the same role as  the primary carer, so to make this happen effectively, a discussion with the primary care team is essential. This helps ensure continuity in routine, which is important for anyone, but especially for those living with conditions such as dementia.

Typical duties of a respite live-in carer can include:

Personal care

Meal preparation

Running errands



Pet care

Who may need respite care?

Respite care is important in a number of ways, both for carers and the people they care for.

Being a home carer is a role that can be physically and mentally demanding – particularly if you’re looking after a family member or loved one. It allows a carer to recharge their batteries, safe in the knowledge that a loved one is being well cared for. It helps to prevent stress and burnout, allowing a carer to enjoy a well-earned break and return feeling refreshed and with renewed energy.

But respite care can be just as important for the care recipient – allowing them to enjoy new experiences or giving them an opportunity to test out alternative services or forms of care. Speaking to elderly people about care options can be difficult – but having this type of care in the home can help guide conversations to more permanent care solutions.

Respite written on a block, being held in two hands

Arranging respite care

If you require council funding, contact your local social services team to arrange a care needs assessment. This will establish what level of care your loved one needs and what type of care is best suited to meet those needs.

Even when council funding is not necessary, having a care needs assessment can help you make sense  of what type of care will be the most suitable. Arranging care can be as quick and simple as calling Elder to discuss your requirements.

Carer’s assessment

Local authorities also have a duty to assess carer needs when requested. This may be in the form of a one-to-one meeting, telephone or online discussion between the carer and a trained professional, who’ll consider the impact of the caring duties on the individual and their life. They’ll also consider support options and provide their decision in writing following the assessment.

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’re 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.


Are you eligible for carers allowance?

As a carer, you could also be entitled to a Carer’s Allowance which is a benefit specifically for informal carers who look after a person for more than 35 hours per week. If you find you’re ineligible for this, make sure you check whether Carer’s Credit is suitable. 

Respite care in a care home

Respite care can be provided in a care home or certain other facilities, such as hospices or day care centres. Taking regular breaks can sometimes be enough to help you carry on providing care at home for your loved one – so can be surprisingly cost-effective. 

If you opt for residential respite care, it’s important to find a home that both you and your loved one are happy with. This can take time, and is important to get right. Although, if your elderly relative understands that they’ll only be in the home for a limited time, they’ll probably accept the arrangement more readily.

Respite care for the elderly with dementia

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 the disruption the move to residential respite care causes means that it’s simply not worthwhile.

As those living with dementia can benefit greatly from routine, respite care in a care home can be disruptive of this. Live-in respite care provides a valuable alternative that allows smooth transition of carer duties – without a change in location.

Respite care at home

You could opt for live-in 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’re away.

Respite 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.

Respite carer giving an elderly lady food

Paying for respite care

Costs for respite care can range from £700 to £1500 per week, depending on the type of elderly care provided.

Costs can also vary depending on the length of care required. Emergency and live-in care at home will tend to carry a premium. However, a live-in carer is a more cost-effective option than respite care in a residential home.

As with any type of care, the first step in considering financial options, is to seek local authority funding.

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’re 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.

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