Types of respite care in Wales

There are different types of respite care available in and out of the home in Wales. Options range from care agencies, support workers and friends, to day centres, holidays and care homes.

Respite care options at home

Many people prefer care provided in the person’s own home because it means they can stay in a familiar environment and maintain their daily routines. There are a number of ways that this can be arranged.

Care agencies and other care providers

Care agencies provide different types of respite care in the person’s own home. These range from a personal assistant or support worker making daily visits, to help with personal care or social activities to 24-hour live-in care.

Some local carers’ organisations offer a respite care service. This often involves a regular carer coming to spend a few hours with the person with dementia. Your local carers’ centre can give you information on what is available locally. Carers’ centres are independent charities that deliver support services for carers in local communities. Carers Wales or your local authority can provide details of your local carers’ centre (see Other resources).

In some parts of Wales, carers are allocated a respite care budget. They can use this to access a range of respite care providers when it suits them best. This scheme is run by NEWCIS – see Other resources.

Support workers (personal assistants)

Respite care at home can involve a support worker or paid carer (often called a personal assistant) coming into the home. They may be employed by a care agency or by you or the person you care for. They may do any of the following:

  • come in during the day to give you time to do something you want to do (such as going to the shops, visiting friends or attending a class)
  • help with personal care such as washing and dressing
  • spend time with the person with dementia doing things they enjoy inside or outside their home
  • come into the person’s home to provide care and support during the night, so that you can get some sleep
  • stay with the person or make regular visits so that you can go on holiday or have a break away from home.

Friends and family

If the person with dementia wants to stay at home, a friend or family member could stay with them to give you a break. Alternatively, the person could stay with family and friends.

It can be helpful for the person with dementia to spend time with someone they know. People who know them may be familiar with their routine, likes and dislikes, which can be reassuring for you and the person.

It is not always possible for friends or family to provide care or they might not know how best to help. If you do have someone you can ask, let them know specifically how they can help, for example spending time with the person so you can have a rest. This helps people to know what you need and means you get help that works for you and the person with dementia.

Respite care options away from home

Other types of respite care include day centres, holidays or short breaks, and care homes.

Day centres and community groups

Day centres provide opportunities for people with dementia to meet other people and perhaps take part in activities. Some day centres specialise in supporting people with dementia, and some are run specifically for younger people with dementia.

It may take the person a while to adjust to attending a day centre, and initially they may need support and encouragement to go. You might find it helpful to go with the person for their first few visits. It’s important for staff at the day centre to get to know the person and their likes, dislikes and support needs. This will mean they can help the person settle in and make sure that activities meet their needs. See ‘Giving information to respite care providers’ for more advice on how you can help with this.

Some people may be more comfortable joining a community group or club, such an arts and crafts group or sports club. For more information see The activities handbook.

Ask your local authority what day centres or community groups are available in your area, or go to our dementia directory.

Dewis Cymru can also help you find local groups – see Other resources.

Holidays and short breaks

Another form of respite care is for you and the person with dementia to take a short break or holiday together. Some organisations provide specialist holidays for people with dementia and their carers. They include support with caring and facilities that are accessible and more suitable for people with dementia. You might find that being away from your normal environment means you can focus on spending quality time with the person you care for. Your local carers’ centre can give you more information about this.

When arranging a holiday or short break it’s important to make arrangements with the holiday company in advance, if you can. This means you and the person you care for know what to expect. It also gives the company time to organise support for you both. The person with dementia may need extra support to cope with a new environment or changes to their routine, such as leaving the bathroom light on and door open at night.

Finding a holiday company that caters for people with dementia can make things easier and mean you both have a more enjoyable holiday. For more information and advice on travelling, including details of specific providers, see Holidays and travelling.

Care homes

Some care homes offer opportunities for people with dementia to stay for a short period of time. There are different types of care homes which provide different levels of care, including:

  • Residential care homes, which look after a person’s general living requirements, such as accommodation and meals, as well as helping with personal care, such as washing and bathing.
  • Nursing homes, which provide nursing care (as well as personal care) with a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day.
  • Care homes that are registered as dementia care homes. They specialise in providing care and support for people with dementia. These can be either residential or nursing homes.

Arranging respite care in a care home depends on a room being available, so it is best to plan ahead. Rooms may not be available at short notice. Planning ahead for when respite care will be needed can be difficult, but it can be helpful to make arrangements for the future if you can.

Arranging respite care in a care home can feel like a big step to take. However, some care homes will allow you both to drop in for a coffee, or for the person you care for to spend a few hours there, perhaps for dinner or activities. Or the care home may offer a day care service. These options can help the person to become familiar with the home in advance of a longer stay. It can also help you to feel more confident in your decision to take a break. Speak to the manager there about what may be possible.

It’s important to note that lockdowns or restrictions due to coronavirus may affect access to some types of respite care. For example, care homes and day centres may close or they may have strict rules that limit people using them. If this happens speak to your local authority about what is still available to support you.

The Shared Lives scheme

The Shared Lives scheme is another option for respite care. The idea is usually that someone with care needs can live or stay in the home of someone who is an approved Shared Lives carer. This could give you time for a short break or to recover from an illness, for example.

The exact arrangements will vary depending on the needs of the person. For example, someone with dementia may move into the home of a Shared Lives carer to stay with them for a while. Sometimes, the Shared Lives carer could provide daytime support – either in their own home or the home of the person with dementia.

The scheme is not available everywhere but it is expanding. Your local authority or the Shared Lives scheme will be able to provide more information about whether this is currently available near you. See Other resources for more information.

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