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What is respite care and what are the benefits to the carer?

Respite care can be a welcome relief for those who take on the rewarding but difficult work of caring for someone who is frail, elderly, sick or disabled, whether professionally or for a family member or loved one. It involves a temporary change in who provides care, thereby enabling those normally responsible to take a holiday or relax away from their duties for a short period of time. 

Especially with much greater attention being paid to mental health among the public, we understand better than ever the importance of taking breaks. When you’re doing something very full-on, like caring for a vulnerable person, it’s clear how respite care can benefit a carer. For the person they care for, professional respite care services provide a safe environment and specialist care, which is consistent with their needs and normal routine.

What is respite care? 

Respite care is a temporary form of care, where a client or patient receives care for a limited period in a way which differs from their usual care situation. It is often used when the normal carer needs a break. It’s important that those who are caring full time, either for a family member or loved one, or as a professional live-in carer, are able to have breaks from time to time, in order to avoid burning out or suffering from too much stress. 

Respite care is offered by many residential nursing and care homes, or could be provided at home by another relative or friend, by a live-in or visiting carer, or at a day care centre. The day-to-day care tasks are likely to be very similar in a respite care setting to the regular care routine; the main thing that changes is who provides it and, sometimes, where it is provided.

What are the benefits of respite care?

Respite care can have many benefits, both for the individual who receives the care, and their normal caregiver:

  • The carer is able to take a much-needed break so that they can return to their caring role re-energised and refreshed. This helps to maintain the standard of care they are able to provide by preventing burnout, and increasing their ability to be patient and committed in their caring duties, improving the relationship between the carer and the person they are caring for.
  • The individual receiving the care has the opportunity to interact with different carers and other residents if they go to stay in a care home. This can be beneficial for their mental health as often these individuals don’t get to socialise with a wide range of people.
  • Respite care can support positive health outcomes.  A fresh perspective from a care professional may allow the identification of problems not spotted by the usual caregiver, who is often a family member who may not have any professional health or social care experience.

Who pays for respite care? 

If you can afford it, you will most likely pay for respite care yourself. However, if you are unable to fund it yourself, you may be able to access financial support from your local authority. If you want to seek this funding, you will need to contact your local authority’s social services and undergo both a carer’s assessment, and a care needs assessment for the individual being cared for. These assessments will determine what kind of respite care may be appropriate, whether this is a day care centre, live-in or visiting care at home, or a short stay in a care home. The local authority will then do another financial assessment to decide whether you are eligible for financial assistance.

How does respite care work? 

Most often, respite care will involve the individual who is being cared for attending a day care centre, staying in a care home for a short time, or being cared for in their own home by a visiting or live-in carer. Respite care occurs over a limited length of time, which could be a few days, or as long as month. There will need to be adequate forward planning, with the usual carer providing all of the information those responsible for the respite care will need. It is also very important that the person being cared for is fully included in their care, including during a period of respite care, and they should be involved in decision making.

If you are receiving funding from a local authority, you are likely to have less control over what kind of respite care is chosen, as this will most likely be determined by the outcome of social services’ assessments. If you are funding the care privately, however, there is much more scope for exploring and researching the different options, and making a decision based on what will benefit the cared-for person most.

If you or a loved one requires respite care, The Fremantle Trust can help ensure appropriate support is given to caregivers, whilst offering the highest quality of care to the individual in need. Contact us today to find out more about how our respite care services can help you.