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All about caring

Take a break from caring

More than 80% of carers believe that caring has harmed their own health, according to the Princess Royal Trust for Carers. Taking a break is vital to help carers to manage the impact that caring has on their lives.

Getting help

Family and friends are often the first people carers turn to when they need help. Catching up with familiar faces for a couple of hours or having a night out can be a big relief. However, the support that friends and family can offer may be limited in both quality and quantity, so it’s important to consider other sources of help.

There are a number of ways to get a break (known as respite). These include:

  • Residential respite – this is when the person you care stays somewhere else, such as a residential care home, for a set amount of time to give you both a break.
  • Domiciliary care – this is when a care worker looks after the person you care for for a few hours or overnight to give you some time to yourself.   
  • Day centres/trips out -  if the person you care for is involved in other activities, for example, at a day centre, or going out with the help of a support worker then you could also use this time to have a break from caring.

Your local authority and GP are the best places to start when looking for respite as they often offer support services for carers. Services arranged through the NHS are free.

In order to get services from your local authority the person you care for will need to have a community care assessment: This should include their respite requirements. A financial assessment will also be carried out, as some services may be charged for.
As a carer you can also request a carer's assessment of your needs.

In order to find out about the services offered by your social services department and to apply for a community care assessment for the person you care for you should contact your local authority. Enter your postcode in the Services near you search facility on the right to get their contact details.

Short-term care and breaks

Short-term care can mean anything from a day or night-sitting service to a short-term stay in a home. It could be a chance for the person you care for to go out with others, allowing you to have a little time at home for yourself.

Your local authority may also be able to provide you with vouchers for short-term breaks. This allows you to choose where and when to have a break. However, these schemes are not available everywhere, so it’s best to check with your local social services.

Another method is direct payments, where the local authority calculates what services it thinks you need, and then gives you the money to buy the services directly, rather than arranging it for you. This could, for example, allow you to employ a carer while you take a break.

The Crossroads website can also help you find local services. Crossroads has 140 schemes throughout England and Wales providing care to over 35,000 carers (see External links).

Crossroads charges for some services, but you may be able to access these for free if you have a carer's assessment or if the person you care for has a community care assessment and respite is part of their care package.

A spokesperson said: "Crossroads gives carers a break from their caring responsibilities. Our aim is to provide a flexible and reliable service, tailored to meet the individual needs of each carer and the person they care for. Every scheme offers practical support when and where it is most needed, mostly in the home.

"A trained carer support worker will take over from the carer to give them time to themself. They can use this time as they wish: to see friends, keep appointments, have a hobby or just to get some sleep."

Taking a holiday

We all need a break and planning a holiday gives us something to look forward to. If you choose to go on holiday without the person you're caring for, local social services should be able to help you make arrangements to cover costs for additional care in the home, extra visits to daycare centres or residential care while you're away.

If you want to go away with the person you care for, you will need to find accommodation to suit their needs. There are specialist organisations that can help you find accommodation that is suitable for disabled people. Tourism for All (see External links) has specialist information about accessible places to stay and advice for travellers with special mobility needs.

The Break website (see External links) provides information on supported holidays, short breaks, respite care and daycare support. Vitalise (see External links) provides an alternative to traditional respite care by offering breaks in a relaxed, holiday environment but with nursing care and personal support available.

You can also arrange a break yourself. However, it's still a good idea to ensure that the person you care for has a community care assessment. Even if they're paying for the complete cost of care themselves, an assessment will help you clarify the type of care they need and you may find you're entitled to some financial help.

Watch the video below to see how one carer coped with full-time caring.

Carers: Julie's story

Julie is a full-time carer. In this video she explains how she copes and where she found help. Call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 and get free, confidential information and advice for carers.

Media last reviewed: 14/12/2012

Next review due: 14/12/2014


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Page last reviewed: 21/12/2012

Next review due: 21/12/2014

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

Services near you

Getting respite

All about how carers can access respite care, including residential and at-home services

Carers: putting yourself first

Information on staying healthy and getting time off and respite so that you look after yourself and are able to keep caring