Adapting to respite care in Northern Ireland

Respite care can be a big support for you and the person you care for.  However, it can be difficult to adjust to. 

You will probably have some worries, for example about how the person is settling in, whether they are being well cared for or if their routine is being disrupted. 

The person you care for may also be worried about respite care. It can help to talk to them and find out if they are worried about certain things. If you know what they’re worried about, it will be easier for you to find ways to support them. It may also mean that you can look at ways to address the issue.

For example, if the person is concerned about being in an unfamiliar environment, you could make sure they take a few favourite items with them, such as photographs, to make to make it feel more familiar. 

Following some of our tips for carers (below) may help. Care providers can find it helpful to know if there are any concerns or anything worrying the person. It means they can put things in place to address these and tailor the support they provide. 

It is normal to be nervous about respite care. However, these feelings shouldn’t stop you from using it if you feel it would help. Caring for a person with dementia is a complex and challenging job. There are positive and negative aspects, and everybody will cope with their situation in different ways. 

Taking a break from caring is not always an easy decision to make, and you may feel worried or guilty. You may feel that respite care will create more stress and that the quality of the care will not be good enough. 

Try to remember that having a break will do both you, and the person with dementia, good. It may mean that you can carry on caring for longer.

Tips for carers in Northern Ireland thinking about respite care

If you care for a person with dementia and are thinking of arranging respite care, there are some things that can help. 

  • Talk about it – It can help to talk openly about respite care with the person you care for. It will give you both a chance to discuss your options and your feelings. 
  • Arrange for assessments with the local authority – If both you and the person with dementia have an assessment of your needs, it will help you to know what you need and the options you have. 
  • Plan ahead – New environments can be difficult for a person with dementia. It can help to set up a regular respite care routine, to help both you and the person adjust. Some people find it helpful to arrange respite care early on, rather than waiting for an emergency or for things to become hard to manage. This can support you to carry on caring, be an opportunity to try different types of respite care to see what works best and help the person with dementia adjust. 
  • Consider short breaks or short visits to start with – This will mean you, the person with dementia and the care providers can get to know each other. It may help to build confidence before a longer visit.
  • Talk to the respite care providers and visit them – This will help you and the person with dementia get to know them. It will also give them an opportunity to get to know you both. It can help to develop relationships and give you confidence in the care they provide. You may want to arrange for the person with dementia to spend time with the respite care provider (possibly with you to start with) before the respite care starts or as part of a trial. 
  • Focus on the positives – You may be worried that respite care won’t provide the same level of care as you can, or that the person will become unsettled. It is natural to be worried, but try to focus on how the break will support you in your caring role. The person with dementia may also benefit from respite care – for example, by meeting new people or taking part in hobbies and activities.
  • Keep trying – Respite care is an adjustment for everyone. If something doesn’t work or doesn’t go to plan, try not to give up. There may be other options you can try to find out what works best for you and the person with dementia. 
  • Talk to others – Talking to other carers about your feelings can help. They may be able to give you tips and suggestions. However, remember that what works for one person may not work for another. You may also want to talk to a professional (such as a support worker) about how you’re feeling. 

For more information on all aspects of caring see our booklet Caring for a person with dementia: A practical guide.

Carers: looking after yourself can give you more advice on maintaining your wellbeing while in a caring role.

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