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If you care for someone, you’re almost certainly aware of how demanding it can be – both physically and emotionally. And while caring for a loved one can be rewarding, it’s also taxing, so it’s important for carers to make sure they take care of themselves too.

If you’re a sole carer, you might feel that you’re on your own, or that you don’t have the time, money, or necessary support to take a break. But there are a range of respite care options available to support families in their various circumstances.

Respite care is a term that’s used to describe services that help carers have a break, and there are several different types. Some involve other people looking after the person you care for a few hours while you go out or take some time for yourself, and others involve short stays in care homes so you can take a longer break.

To shine a light on how respite care works and help you figure out how to take advantage, we’ve partnered with Lottie; a free service that helps people find the best care options (including respite care) in the UK to save them time and money.

If you’d like to find out more about respite care and how to arrange it, here’s everything you need to know.

What types of respite care are there?

What types of respite care are there

Unlike other forms of care, which focus on supporting people who need help, respite care is about providing care for the carer themselves.

No matter how dedicated you are, the truth is that you can’t look after someone properly when you’re burnt out, exhausted, and stressed. So, to help carers out, there are different types of respite care available.

What works best for you will likely depend on your personal circumstances and the needs of the person you care for. You might feel that you need a one-off short break to focus on your own happiness and wellbeing, or to have some time to do things you enjoy – whether it’s a hobby, exercise, or seeing friends.

On the other hand, if you feel you need a longer break, perhaps a week to catch on rest and to recharge, or even a fortnight to go on holiday, respite care can mean that your loved one temporarily stays in a care home.

Other forms of respite care can involve regular support, like taking the person you care for to a day centre once a week or having someone come and care for your loved one at night.

Some forms of respite care even involve the person you care for going on holiday without you, so you have time and space to relax.

Respite care can also be planned well in advance or organised quickly during an emergency – it all depends on each individual circumstance.

The most common form of respite care tends to be provided through a respite care home. If you want to check out some of the best respite care homes near you, you can browse nearby care homes and filter results by your loved one’s personal care needs on Lottie’s website.

Find the UK's best care options with Lottie

Not sure where to start looking for care for your loved ones? Find the UK’s best care options, handpicked and vetted by experts on Lottie. They’ll guide you through every step of finding the right care.

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How to arrange respite care

How to arrange respite care

If you’d like to arrange respite care, you might be wondering how to go about doing it – and what you’re expected to pay.

The good news is that, in many cases, respite care is entirely funded by local authorities, so you don’t have to pay a penny. However, this will depend on your financial situation and whether the council agrees there’s a need for respite care, so the first thing to do is to arrange a carer’s assessment.

A carer’s assessment is free and you can apply by contacting your local council’s adult social services, either by phone or online. The carer’s assessment will determine whether you need support in your caring role – and even if the authorities believe you’re not in need of respite care, they might recommend other ways to make your life easier.

Aside from respite care, local authorities may pay for things like a gym membership, so you can attend exercise classes to relieve stress, or provide you with funding for taxi fares if you don’t drive. They may also put you in touch with local support groups so you feel connected to other people in the same position as you, and/or provide you with household or gardening help.

After you’ve applied for a carer’s assessment, it’s worth booking a needs assessment for the person you care for. A needs assessment will look at the type of support your loved one needs – whether it’s respite care, access to day centres, help from paid carers, or changes to your home, like stair lifts.

Even if you think you won’t be eligible for council funding, it’s still a good idea to get both a carer’s assessment and a needs assessment, as you’ll be given advice relating to which type of respite care will be best for both you and your loved one.

Will respite care affect my finances or benefits?

Will respite care affect my finances or benefits?

If you don’t yet receive any funding from local authorities, your carer’s assessment can see if you’re eligible. The council will look at savings, capital, and income – but not the value of your home.

If you have more than £23,250 in savings or capital, you won’t be eligible for financial support towards respite care.

If you currently receive benefits like a Carer’s Allowance, you might be wondering whether receiving respite care will affect this. The rules here can be complex, but generally, most people can continue to receive their Carer’s Allowance for up to four weeks in a six-month period, even if they receive respite care.

However, to make sure you’re clear about your own situation, it’s worth getting in touch with the Carer’s Allowance Unit. If you receive other benefits related to caring, these may be affected by respite care, so it’s important to reach out and get specialist advice.

To find out more about care fees and funding, head over to the advice hub on Lottie.

Find the UK's best care options with Lottie

Not sure where to start looking for care for your loved ones? Find the UK’s best care options, handpicked and vetted by experts on Lottie. They’ll guide you through every step of finding the right care.

Search care options

Different types of respite care

Different types of respite care

We’ve already looked at some different forms of respite care. But let’s take a closer look at which types might be best for you and your loved one – as well as how to make arrangements for each one.

Day care centres

If the person you care for finds it difficult to get out and about or socialise with other people, the best form of respite care may be visiting a day care centre. These are usually run by councils or local charities, and are geared towards helping vulnerable people take part in activities and make friends.

Some day care centres offer art and crafts-focused activities, while others hold singing, dancing, and games. Some are focused on socialising, perhaps over some tea and cake. Other day care centres provide pampering services like hairdressing, foot and nail care, and assisted bathing. Transport is sometimes provided too, though this isn’t always free.

Homecare

If you need more time for yourself, you may be able to get help from a paid carer at home. This could be regular – for example, three afternoons a week so you can have some time off – or more infrequently, perhaps twice a month. Or it could even be for a longer time, like a week, so you can go away and take a break somewhere else.

If your loved one needs round-the-clock care, a live-in carer may be able to come and stay in your home while you take a break. Homecare can be funded by the council if you’ve had a needs assessment and have savings under £23,250, otherwise you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

To find approved homecare agencies in your local area, you can check out the Homecare Association website. Alternatively, head over to the NHS website to see both local homecare services and national homecare providers.

A temporary stay in a care home

If you feel in need of a break and the chance to rest and relax without worrying about your loved one, a respite care home may be the best solution. While not all care homes offer short-term respite care, many do – and if you want to plan a holiday, you can make an advance booking at a care home.

To check out care homes near you that offer respite care, you might want to head over to Lottie’s website. Here, you can filter results by the dates that you need care support for, as well as by care home facilities and personal care needs (for example, dementia care etc.).

While the thought of leaving your loved one for a longer period of time can be scary, a short-term stay in a care home can have huge benefits – both for you and the person you care for. Your loved one will be surrounded by expert carers, as well as people in similar situations, and they may make new friends and enjoy being more sociable.

When it comes to you, having real time and space to rest and recuperate can relieve tiredness, stress, and feelings of frustration – as well giving you more time to interact with your family and friends. Plus, taking a break can improve your relationship with the person you care for, as you’ll hopefully return feeling rested and ready to step back into your caring role.

To have a look at some of the best respite care homes in the UK, you might want to check out this guide from Lottie.

Find the UK's best care options with Lottie

Not sure where to start looking for care for your loved ones? Find the UK’s best care options, handpicked and vetted by experts on Lottie. They’ll guide you through every step of finding the right care.

Search care options

Final thoughts…

Caring for a loved one can be incredibly challenging, and it’s important that you take time to look after yourself. If you feel that you need a break from your caring responsibilities, respite care can be the ideal solution for both you and the person you care for.

Arranging respite care can often feel quite daunting, whether it’s worrying about the financial aspect or making time for things like carer’s and needs assessments. But try to remember that there are supportive services out there – and many of them, like Lottie, are not only free, but provide tips, activities, and advice to make the whole process of caring simpler and easier.

For more information on care, whether it’s how to talk to your employer about your caregiving needs or ideas for fun activities to do with the person you care for, you might want to head over to the care section of our website.

Do you currently care for a loved one? Do you have experience of respite care? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.