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What is respite care?

Fonthill House, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Caring for an elderly, disabled or ill family member can be tiring and difficult to navigate on your own. Everyone needs some support every once in a while which is where respite care can make a huge difference.

What is respite care?

Respite care offers temporary relief for caregivers, providing a short-term break away from the 24/7 job of caring for a loved one. Respite care can take place within your home, at day-care centres or at residential or nursing homes that offer overnight stays. Whether you want to go on holiday or just have some time to yourself, respite care can relieve you from your caring responsibilities, giving you time to recharge. 

Respite care gives you the opportunity to take some time for yourself and avoid burnout. In order to be the best primary caregiver, you need time to relax.

What are the benefits of respite care?

Respite care eases the burden of family caregiving, which can be a very demanding role, offering little time to care for yourself. Having a break can help to restore some balance in your life, giving you the opportunity to spend time with friends or other family members without any feelings of guilt. It’s easy to become burnt out when caring for a family member full-time, respite care relieves the stress and gives you permission to simply relax and let somebody else take over, even for a short while.

Respite care doesn’t just benefit you either, it also helps the person you’re caring for. Having a change of routine provides them with some variety and stimulation, which can help them feel more positive and energised.

When should you consider respite care?

It can be hard knowing (or accepting) when you need respite care. Things can quickly become overwhelming and you may struggle to know where to turn. Here are some key signs that you may need to arrange respite care:

  • Stress is affecting your health — you might find that you’re struggling to sleep, not eating properly or falling ill easily. Caregiving can be stressful, it might be time for a break.
  • Your life lacks balance — do your caregiving responsibilities take up all your spare time? If you don’t have time to see friends or family or do activities you enjoy, respite care could be a great option.
  • You’re making mistakes — everyone makes mistakes but you might find that you’re making errors more and more often. This could put the person you’re caring for at risk, a break can help recharge your batteries.
  • You’re sick — if you’ve fallen ill or become injured, it’s always best to ask for help.


There could be several instances when you might consider respite care, even just simply feeling as though you need a break. It’s always worth checking in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling and whether respite care could offer you some relief.

How long does respite care typically last?

Respite care can last as long or as short as you want – from a few hours to a few weeks – you can decide what time you need to relax and recharge. Typically, respite care will last between one and two weeks but this entirely depends on your specific needs. Sometimes it might simply be because you’re away for a weekend or because you need a break, this all impacts how long you might book the respite care for.

How do you arrange respite care?

Arranging respite care is easy, simply explore the local care services in your area, deciding whether you’d like someone to visit or for your loved one to stay on-site for a short while. It’s important to assess both your needs and your loved one’s – what do you need help with most? Will you need regular respite care? What activities does your loved one enjoy doing? These questions will help to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for. 

It’s worth meeting with potential carers before deciding which one is right for you, ensuring that your loved one also agrees with the decision.

Who pays for respite care?

You pay for respite care yourself, however, if you need help with funding, the council or a charity can support you in some instances:

  • Council — you’ll need to do a needs assessment and carer’s assessment to determine whether you need respite care. The council will then carry out a financial assessment to see whether you can afford it. If you qualify, the council can arrange respite care for you or provide a budget.
  • Charity — grants and discounts can be available to caregivers – visit the Carers Trust website for more information.


Respite care makes you a much better caregiver, after all, you can’t fill another’s cup if yours is empty. Taking care of yourself is so important and having a break away from responsibilities makes a huge difference. We all want the best for our loved ones and one of the best things you can do is to look after your own well-being.

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