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How To Know If Respite Care Is The Right Choice For Your Family

January 25th, 2022

Respite care can be a lifeline for many caregivers. Caring for a loved one can be extremely challenging, and the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened this. Statistics from Carers UK showed that 13.6 million people in the UK were caring for someone else in 2020, when lockdown restrictions were in place, and many support services were scaled back.

But caring has always raised challenges, with the State of Caring Survey 2018 from Carers UK, which looked at the impact of caring on carers’ health and wellbeing finding that:

  • 8 in 10 carers reported feeling isolated from others
  • 61% noticed an impact on their physical health
  • 72% reported that caring had affected their mental health

Speaking ahead of Carers Week in 2021, Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Caring for someone you love is pretty exhausting at the best of times, but to do it day in, day out, for months, without any break, while also worrying about the [COVID-19] virus, is a recipe for physical and mental collapse, however resilient you are.”

Even outside of a pandemic, it’s essential to take a break from caring duties every now and again to look after your own wellbeing. Self-care is just as important as the caring duties you carry out for others, so it’s vital to have regular breaks to recharge your batteries – this is where respite care comes in.

What Is Respite Care?

carer holding patient's hand

Respite care is a temporary break from a caring relationship. Respite care for elderly people can take the form of residential care, nursing care, and even specialist dementia care. It can be used for recuperation after an operation or illness, to provide support while the family is adjusting to a dementia diagnosis, or simply because the usual caregiver needs a break.

Sometimes, respite care can be temporary and informal, such as a friend or neighbour giving you a couple of hours off from your caring responsibilities once a week. But typically, respite care is usually planned in advance and often involves a short residential stay in a care home.

Respite care can also be a good way to assess if full-time residential care is the right choice for your family, allowing you to try out time apart and specialist facilities, which can help you in making your decision.

Ultimately, respite care is about providing a much-needed break and a welcome change of scenery – you should never be afraid to ask for support from a respite care service if you need it.

Types Of Respite Care

Respite care can take different forms, such as:

  • Day care centres
  • Home carers popping in occasionally to give you a break
  • Informal support from family, friends, and neighbours
  • Sitting services, where trained volunteers can provide your loved one with company for a few hours while you go out
  • Short-term, 24-hour residential care

Respite care can provide a lifeline for both parties in a caring relationship, but it shouldn’t be the only support that you access. It can also be beneficial to engage with other carers through a local support group, so you can connect with other people who know exactly what you’re going through.

If you ever feel as though you’re struggling, speak to your GP or a counsellor – don’t keep your concerns to yourself, as this can take its toll on your mental health, potentially impacting your caring abilities.

When Is Respite Care The Right Decision?

Many carers use respite care when they’re on holiday, but you don’t need to be going away to access respite care services. It’s important to check in with how you’re feeling regularly, and if you relate to any of the following, you should consider respite care as an option:

  • When you feel burnt out
  • If your own health and wellbeing are getting neglected
  • If you’re unable to give enough of your time to other family members
  • When you’ve had too many broken nights of sleep
  • If you – or the person you’re caring for – are feeling lonely or isolated
  • If the loved one you’re caring for seems unhappy in themselves – a change in their routine could be just what they need

How to Access Respite Care

care home residents playing a game with a ball

Respite care for elderly people can be accessed privately or via your local authority. If you’re considering respite care in a care home, it’s important to do some research into the different facilities available in your local area. 

You’ll know when a care home feels right for your loved one – if you have any reservations at all, don’t be afraid to check out more homes, and ask all of the questions you need. Ask friends for recommendations too – if they’ve entrusted a loved one to a home whether for respite care or as a full-time resident, that’s usually a good sign that you can do the same.

Sensible questions to ask to help you to make your decision on respite care include:

  • How far in advance does respite care need to be booked?
  • What facilities are available at the care home?
  • What type of training do your staff members have?
  • What type of activities are available to respite care patients?
  • How many other people use the home’s respite care services? You might not want your loved one to be the only respite care patient 
  • Are visitors allowed during a respite care stay?
  • Is there a limit on how often respite care can be accessed in a year?

If you’re concerned about the cost of respite care, your council may be able to provide support. They will assess your needs as a caregiver and the needs of the person you look after, which can help to identify which type of respite care will be most beneficial, as well as the support you’re entitled to. 

What Are The Benefits of Respite Care?

Respite care can have benefits for both caregivers and those requiring care.

What Are The Benefits Of Respite Care For Caregivers?

The benefits of respite care for caregivers include:

  • Using respite care provides you with essential time for yourself. It’s important to be selfish sometimes and make time for self-care; if you’re not looking after yourself properly, you won’t be in the best position to look after anybody else
  • Take advantage of the break that respite care provides you with to reconnect with people you haven’t seen for a while and make time for hobbies you enjoy
  • Respite care can also provide you with a fresh perspective on caring for your loved one, as you may find yourself picking up tips and advice from the professionals you entrust them with

It’s good for both parties to miss each other occasionally, so you can both return to the caring relationship feeling refreshed with renewed patience levels, which is absolutely essential for everyone’s wellbeing.

What Are The Benefits of Respite Care For Elderly People?

There are also many benefits of respite care for elderly people, including:

  • Respite care provides an individual with the time and space to recuperate after an operation with the care of trained nurses without worrying about the impact on the wider family
  • They’ll have access to care from professionals trained in dementia care or other specialist needs
  • Shaking up their routine from time to time can provide a welcome change of scenery and provide some extra stimulation
  • Spending time in respite care allows them to build relationships with other people, which can be beneficial for preventing feelings of isolation if they’re otherwise around just a few people

What Are The Next Steps For Accessing Respite Care?

We know that it can be difficult to ask for help, but it’s essential to take a break every now and again for everyone’s benefit. It’s important to accept that while no one will provide love like you do, it’s okay to find the next best option to provide care when you need to.

Planning regular respite care breaks in advance helps to prevent you running out of fumes, and it gives both parties something to look forward to. If your loved one is unsure about trying respite care for the first time, show them pictures of the facilities that are available or take them for a visit beforehand, and talk with excitement about the new people they’ll meet, how good a change of scenery will feel, and the benefits for you both.

If you do need respite care at short notice, get in touch to find out what support is available, but remember it’s always best to book in advance, so arrange respite care as soon as you have a holiday planned or at regular intervals so there’s always a break that’s not too far away.

Find out more about respite care at New Care, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our care homes or services.