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Getting a break - respite support

'Respite' support allows you to take a break from your role as a carer to rest, recharge your batteries and relax. This could mean taking a holiday, visiting friends or family for a few days, or even just spending a day or evening out with friends. How long a break you take depends on your needs - you may need a few hours to yourself each week, a day here and there, a week or two for a holiday, or a mixture. 

It's only natural that many carers worry about taking a break from the person they look after. They may feel responsible for that person's wellbeing, and worried about how the person will cope without them. And they may not be sure how to arrange suitable alternative care.

However, it's important to realise that taking a break not only helps you, but also the person you look after, as it will leave you refreshed and more able to cope with the demands of being a carer. 

If you've decided to take a break, you will want to make sure that there are arrangements in place for the person you look after. This is called 'respite care'. 

Arranging respite care

Friends and family

Friends and family members are often happy to take over caring for the person you are looking after in order to allow you to go on a short break or holiday. Sometimes you can arrange for friends or family to visit the person you are looking after and provide alternative care while you are away. Alternatively, it may mean that the person you are looking after will need to stay with a friend or relative while you take a break.

Respite support and short breaks from your local council

If the person you look after has had an assessment of their support needs from the council, and is eligible for support, then their personal budget and support plan may include a sum of money and a plan for respite care (or, for people with learning disabilities, a 'short break').

The amount of the personal budget to be used for respite care will depend on the level of need of the person you look after.

This respite element of the personal budget can be spent flexibly to suit the needs of you and the person you look after. Some of the forms of support which you might want to consider include:

  • support in a care home where the person you are looking after goes for a short stay
  • a 'short break' if the person you look after has a learning disability
  • a day-sitting service, where a home carer supports the person you look after, and allows you to take a break to go shopping, meet up with friends, or have time for yourself
  • night care where someone stays at your home to keep an eye on the person you look after, and allow you to get a good night's sleep
  • day care, where the person you are looking after goes to a day centre or takes part in activities away from home allowing you a break from caring
  • help and support when you want to go on holiday by yourself or with the person you care for

Private arrangements

If you are already responsible for arranging or paying for care for the person you look after, you may want to make additional arrangements yourself. This could mean:

  • employing a paid care worker to care for the person you are looking after in their own home
  • paying for short-term support in a care home
  • arranging for the person you look after to attend a day centre
  • arranging a holiday for the person you are looking after.

See our sections on Paying for a private carerChoosing a care homeDay centres and Accessible holidays for more information.

Before you take your break

Before you go away, you may find it useful to make a list of things that the respite care providers will need to know about the person you look after, and pass it on to them or discuss it with them. This will help you to have peace of mind and relax in the knowledge that everything will be taken care of. 

Here's some things you may want to consider including: 

  •  what they like to eat, any allergies or dislikes, and when their mealtimes are
  • any medicines they need to take or treatments they receive
  • their usual daily or weekly routine - for example if they usually attend a day centre, or like to watch particular television programmes, or read a particular newspaper
  • a list of contacts, which should include the doctor's number and the numbers of any other medical professionals involved in the care of the person you are looking after, as well as numbers for nearby family members and friends
  • your own number, in case of emergencies.
  • if you have an emergency plan (which sets out what should be done in an emergency) then make sure you go through the details of this with the people who will be providing alternative care.

Help with the costs of a holiday for you

For many carers, taking even a few days away can seem like an impossible dream. Even when you know someone else will be taking care of the person whom you look after, going away yourself can simply be too expensive or too difficult.

If you have had a carer's assessment,  you may be be offered a carer's personal budget from your local council which you could choose to use towards paying for a break. 

You may also be able to get help with the cost of going on holiday, either alone or with the person you are looking after, from a charity or benevolent fund. Your social worker or local carers support group should be able to provide you with more information on local charities, organisations, benevolent funds and other possible sources of funding.

You could also consider a care holiday, where you go on holiday with the person you're looking after, with additional specialist support on hand to ensure you both have an enjoyable time. 

Coordinating your care arrangements

If you have a smart phone or a tablet then you can download the Jointly app; this makes caring for someone a little easier, less stressful and a lot more organised by making communication and coordination between those who share the care as easy as a text message.

Other information and advice

Kensington and Chelsea

Kensington and Chelsea have produced a leaflet called Carers and the Care Act.

The Carers Network are the main organisation in Kensington and Chelsea providing support, information, breaks and grants for unpaid carers.

And you can go to our page on support and advice for carers in Kensington and Chelsea for a handy summary of local support options.

Westminster

Westminster have produced an information booklet for carers.

The Carers Network are the main organisation in Westminster providing support, information, breaks and grants for unpaid carers.

And you can go to our page on support and advice for carers in Westminster for a handy summary of local support options.

Hammersmith and Fulham

The Carers Network are the main organisation in Hammersmith and Fulham providing support, information, breaks and grants for unpaid carers.
They have produced the following leaflet with details of support available locally.

And you can go to our page on support and advice for carers in Hammersmith and Fulham for a handy summary of local support options.

General

NHS Carers Direct has useful information and advice on respite care and the value of breaks for carers

Carers UK has advice on respite care, as well as directories of respite care providers, and holiday companies that specialise in breaks for carers or care holidays.  

The Which website offers advice on all aspects of arranging respite care.

The Carers Trust offers information on respite care.

You can find out more about local support available to carers on our Carers' advice and support organisations page.

And our Events calendar offers information on support groups and other activities for carers in your area.