What is Respite Care?

Different types of respite care and how to choose the correct one for you and your loved-one.

Maybe people tell you, “you need to ‘look after yourself’ and you should get yourself some respite cover”… But truth be told, you have no idea what to look for, what exists, let alone even ask for. Here we shall discuss and explain; you may like to jot down some notes -what you feel would be the positives and negatives, in terms of your loved-one, of each service. We shall start with explaining the terminologies of the following terms:

  • Day centre
  • Day care
  • Full-day
  • Half-day
  • Overnight care

Independent respite care services (the likes of Serenity Respite) offers all of the above. You book the number of overnights as you need. You can also book in for as many days as needed, but they don’t have to be consecutive days.

To note, the terms respite care, day care and short stay care are often interchangeable.

For you to be visiting the Serenity Respite website, it is likely you have heard of respite care and if you have read through our website you now know what fantastic respite care should look like, but for a moment we should discuss an important fact… The truest form of respite care is for an ‘extended’ period of time, it is not when carers come into the home for 20 minutes, once, twice, three or four times a day. Them doing so is to provide care, it is not to provide you with respite; that is to say “it is not”, because it does not!

Respite is meant to give you a complete break. This simply does not happen if you are in the property when carers come to visit, to carry out their role. You wait for them to arrive, sometimes on time, sometimes an hour or two late -due to traffic between jobs or problems that they have had to deal with when visiting other clients. The waiting is something many family caregivers find stressful; you can’t have a quick shower or pop into the garden for fear of not hearing them come to the door. So you wait and are on alert throughout the whole visit, in case you are wanted or needed for something.

Carers coming into the home is a valuable service to the caregiver and the loved-one, but please do not let any official body plant a seed into your head that this constitutes as respite for you and that you are getting a respite break when carers arrive, you are not and it is not respite! 

Care homes / nursing homes -tend to offer week-long stays as a minimum (though that is not the case with all of them). This tends to be more expensive than the first option.

Respite care coming into your / the carees’ property is normally when 24/7 care is needed.

Sit-in respite care tends to just be for a couple of hours at the most in one sitting). This can cost more than the first two options.

Day centres are not technically respite care, but if the person lives with a caregiver, it does give them a break from their caregiving role. Sometimes a minibus will collect the person, otherwise you would need to take your loved-one to the day centre. Some day centres are walk-in. Some day centres are open just over lunchtime, others 9am – 4pm type thing. Some are social day centres, some are Dementia centres. Others can also be called drop-in centres / services; mini buses do not collect or drop a person off when it is a drop-in centre. Most day centres do not offer the same level of care as respite care services. Often those who attend a day centre are referred to as a service user. Most day centre service users only have access to one very large room / space (plus facilities) when at the day centre. Some centres are free to attend and are community led, others are subsidised by the Local Authority… Many of the latter have sadly been shut down over the years.

Informal arrangements (tend to involve family or friends), are either free or ‘token’ payment / arrangements of some sort.

Obviously no two services are identical, whether it be comparing different types of respite care, or comparing different service providers within the same field of provision.

There is a spectrum, some care / respite care services are outstanding, others are less so. Services can change as staff come and go. Everybody’s experience of respite cover / providers is different.

Here we will discuss what you might expect from each option mentioned above.

⭐️ Respite care cover as an informal arrangement can work really well if you have a very good relationship with the person who is going to help, especially so if they care deeply for both you and your carees’ well-beings. Otherwise some who help, can feel like it’s an obligation… And you will be reminded of their kind deed. When this is the case, you tend to always dash back to relieve the person as soon as you’re able.

You may find a distinct difference between people happily offering to sit or stay with somebody with terminal cancer and somebody with Dementia or with a mental illness, etc.

If a person offers to cover you as an informal arrangement, they may well bring work, a hobby or a book to read when sitting with your loved-one.

⭐️ Sit-in respite care -usually booked to cover an appointment, maybe a doctors or hospital appointment, a trip to the hairdressers, or to do a supermarket shop. You tend not to stay home when you have a sit-in service. With a sit-in service you (or the Local Authority) are usually paying for the person to be there, so if your appointment, etc finishes a little sooner than you allowed for, then you can treat yourself to a relaxing cup of coffee before heading back home at the time of the service coming to an end. It is expected that the sit-in respite carer will spend the time engaging with your loved-one, whether that be chatting with them, playing a game or completing a jigsaw with them if one is on the go. They will also organise food and liquid if the things have been left to be given.

⭐️ A respite carer coming into the property. This person is usually happy to let themselves into the property if your cared-for is capable of being left. They are usually there for longer than a couple of hours, so they take your place, getting food ready if they are there over a mealtime, they will also wash and put away things that have been used, they expect they may have to do some personal care. They will do laundry if it is needed. They will usually be happy to feed pets. They may take your loved-one out for a walk if they are there long enough. They will hopefully partake in some activities with your loved-one, especially if you have left things around to be used. They will get your caree ready for bed and settle them if they are there over that time.

They usually offer overnights; they can be ‘sleeping nights’ or ‘waking nights’. Sleeping nights mean that they sleep in a room next to your loved-one and attend to them if your loved-one wakes (they basically do what you do when caring 24/7). Waking nights mean they sit beside your loved-one’s bed if needed or in a room next to your loved-ones’ bedroom. They are not usually given daytime jobs to do and are able to be doing their own thing, reading, studying, a hobby, etc (they cannot be partaking in other paid work).

Most carers who come into the home expect that there may be a camera in the room your loved-one is in. If somebody objects, maybe think about if they are the correct respite carer for your loved-one. Any professional carer who knows that they provide excellent care will not have a problem with a camera and will in fact feel protected against allegations being made.

The main downsides to a respite carer coming into your home are: you as the primary caregiver (Unpaid Carer) usually feel you need to leave your home; if you don’t, you may well be disturbed or if you are doing joint care with them, you may both work very differently. The other issue can be, the longer the respite carer is in your home the more items you will discover have found a ‘new home’ on your return! The respite carer will guess where logical places are for items to be housed and that might not correspond with your logical place.

You or the Local Authority will either fund this type of respite and it can be rather expensive. It is not a cheaper option than your loved-one going to a respite provider elsewhere.

⭐️ Care home (residential or nursing homes) -A stay is usually for a minimum of 7 nights; they certainly do not offer just one night. The homes usually have big, massive open spaces. More often than not residents are able to stay in their rooms all day; you may even find that a home prides themselves on this being the case. The down side to that is that residents who are there on a respite care package have no need to mix, so often do not settle. Care / residential homes tend to be the most expensive in the sector, along with one-to-one care in the family home. A good care home usually offers one or two activities a day; one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Your loved-one can opt to stay in their room if that is the homes policy, in which case they will not partake in either of the activities. Often care home respite placements are privately funded by yourselves.

Nursing home lockdowns have been a very real issue in terms of families being separated and their respite care placements being put on hold.

⭐️ Independent respite care service – think of the likes of Serenity Respite, they may offer half-day sessions, usually offer full-day sessions, and anything from a one overnight stay, up to a month. They usually have less people booked in, than the number of residents in a care home. The price of an independent respite care service will either be on a parr with a care home or a fraction cheaper. The huge advantage over one-to-one care within the family home is having the company of a number of other people and with that comes the social aspect. Independent respite care services tend to see a greater mix of ages of people attending and be less overwhelming with its smaller sized rooms than the huge spaces in nursing homes.

In independent respite care services, overnight guests tend not to have much access to be in their bedrooms throughout the day, instead they are participating in the activities taking place across the day; there is always something going on and the staff will include everybody who isn’t resting. Independent respite care services tend to be the most inclusive out of all of the options; they specialise in welcoming everybody to join in. With independent respite services there tends to be less focus on profit and more emphasis on activities and staff interaction with their guests. It is a cosier, home from home feel generally.

An independent respite care service placement is either privately funded by yourselves or they take Direct Payments (secured between you and the Local Authority).

To note:

Remember, if you are in receipt of Carers Allowance you can have a break from caring (for any reason, including holidays and hospital stays) for up to four weeks in every 26 weeks. So basically, you must have been caring for 35 hours or more a week for at least 22 weeks of the past 26 weeks (up to 8 weeks of a stay in hospital for either you or the person you care for can be included in the 22 weeks. Carer’s Allowance will continue to be paid for up to 12 weeks if you or your cared for goes into hospital).

From the notes you have made, hopefully you now have a list of points that stand out more to you than any of the other options discussed, in terms of your loved-one and to meet your / their circumstances.

If you would like to explore anything, discussed in this blog, further, especially about independent respite care services like Serenity Respite, you are welcome to reach out to us with your questions; simply head to our Get In Touch and Connect With Us section.