I know from personal experience that although caring for a loved one can be rewarding it can also be time consuming, frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting. One thing is sure however, if you are providing “regular and substantial care” for a relative you are entitled to a break or respite from caring, even if support is also provided by Social Services.
Respite care means temporary relief and usually consists of extra services provided for a limited period of time to allow you to take a break from your caring responsibilities. It may be provided for your elderly relative or for you. It may be for as little as an hour, a night, a day or a week or two, depending on you and your relative’s circumstances.
Respite care can be provided on a regular basis or at a time of crisis, for example if you had to go into hospital. It can be provided in your relative’s home, for example by having a temporary carer from an agency (who can live in if required) while you are away, or your relative may move temporarily into a care home or hospital environment.
For people, who fund their own services, or like my parents, had a Personal Budget from Social Services, there are other options. For example, staying together is a small hotel with a care worker from an agency visiting to provide personal care and help with dressing, or finding a luxury care home that offers respite breaks for ex servicemen and their partners. These are merely examples. The key is to find out what is really important to your loved one and plan around that.
Whether Social Services, the NHS or your relative are responsible for funding respite care, if you are providing regular care and support to your relative, it is important that you look after yourself by ensuring that you have regular breaks from caring.
Joan was exhausted having been caring for her husband John, who had a major stroke several years ago, for a number of years. She told me that she was finding it difficult to cope, as her husband’s concentration and short term memory had deteriorated and his care needs had increased.
As the couple had savings and investments they were not entitled to funding from Social Services. After talking to them both to find out which support would best meet their needs. I arranged a daily visit from an agency care worker to help with John’s personal care and for the time to be increased to sit with John twice a week while Joan went shopping or to see a friend or have her hair done. I also found a care home that had a good day-centre attached which John agreed to go to once a week. He had always been sociable and enjoyed going to the centre and joining some of the activities. Joan also found the Manager very supportive and knowledgeable about how to manage her husband when he became frustrated.
I also arranged for John to spend a week in the care home while Joan went on a cruise with her friend. John had made friends with another resident who also enjoyed watching sport on TV and if you were passing by his room you could hear their excited cheers. Following the success of his first stay at the care home I encouraged Joan to arrange regular stays for John.
It is really important that we look after our own health in order to be able to continue caring. It’s the same principle as the demonstration on an aircraft before take off, when we are told to put our own oxygen mask on first before we put on our child’s. So go girl and book that break!