4. Types of respite care
Care at home
Respite care can be provided at home. Many people prefer this because they can stay in a familiar environment and maintain daily routines. Respite care at home can involve a personal assistant, support worker, volunteer or paid carer visiting the home. They may do any of the following:
- come in during the day to give you a break, allowing you time to do something you want to do – for example, go to the shops, visit friends or pursue education or a hobby
- spend time with the person with dementia and engage them in social activities both inside and outside of the home
- come in to the home to care for the person during the night to give you a chance to sleep
- stay with the person or make regular visits over a certain period of time so that you can go on holiday or have an extended break away from the home.
Respite care at home can be arranged through the local authority, or privately – either directly through a homecare agency, or sometimes through local voluntary organisations (such as carers’ centres). A carer from a homecare agency may be able to provide respite care for a few hours a day, make regular visits throughout the day, or provide 24-hour support for the person at home, depending on the person’s needs.
Some care agencies specialise in providing 24-hour live-in care. This is usually more expensive than a place in a care home. If the local authority is funding respite care there may be a limit on what they will fund. If they can meet the person’s needs in a cheaper way – for example, in a care home – then they are required to do so. However, these decisions cannot be based on cost alone and the local authority must discuss the arrangements with you and the person you care for.
Another option is to employ a personal assistant to provide care. If you or the person you care for are receiving a direct payment, you may want to use this to employ a personal assistant directly. For more information see factsheet 473, Personal budgets. This factsheet is mostly about the system in England, but the section on direct payments is relevant to Wales too.
Some local carers’ organisations may offer a respite care service. This usually involves a regular carer coming to spend time (usually a few hours) with the person with dementia. The local carers’ centre can provide information on what is available locally. Carers’ centres are independent charities that deliver support services for carers in local communities. Carers UK and Carers Trust can provide details of the nearest one (see ‘Other useful organisations’).
Friends and family
If the person you care for wants to stay at home, family and friends may be able to spend some time with them to give you a break. Alternatively, family and friends could have the person with dementia to stay with them, if you want to have a break at home. You and the person you care for may be more comfortable with this arrangement because they will be spending time with someone familiar. Relatives may also be more familiar with the person’s routine and preferences.
However, family members and friends may not be able or willing to take on this responsibility. It can help to talk to them and try to find solutions that work for everyone.
Care away from home
Day centres can provide a range of support for a person with dementia, including activities and social interaction. Some day centres specialise in supporting people with dementia, and some are run specifically for younger people with dementia. The local authority or local Alzheimer’s Society can provide details of day centres in your area. You can also go to alzheimers.org.uk/dementiaconnect to see what is available near you.
It may take the person a while to adjust to attending a day centre, and initially they may need support and encouragement to go. Some carers find accompanying the person for the first few visits helps. It’s important for staff at the day centre to get to know the person and treat them as an individual. This will mean they can help the person settle in and make sure that activities meet their needs.
Holidays and short breaks
Respite care can also take the form of a short break or a holiday. Some organisations provide specialist package holidays for people with dementia and their carers. They include support with caring tasks, and facilities that are accessible and dementia friendly. This means you can have a break from your caring role and focus on spending quality time with the person you care for. The local Alzheimer’s Society or carers’ centre can provide more information. You can also go to alzheimers.org.uk/dementiaconnect to see what is available near you.
Taking a holiday together may require a lot of planning. It’s important that arrangements are made with the provider in advance, if possible, so that you and the person you care for both know what to expect. The person with dementia may need extra support when coping with the new environment or changes to their routine. For more information and advice on travelling see Travelling and going on holiday.
Another option is for the person with dementia to stay in a care home to receive respite care. There are different types of care home, providing different levels of care in addition to accommodation.
- Some care homes provide assistance with personal care (such as washing and bathing). These are often referred to as ‘residential’ care homes.
- Some care homes provide nursing care as well as personal care. They provide care with a registered nurse on site 24-hours a day. These are often known as ‘nursing homes’.
- Some care homes are registered as dementia care homes. These specialise in caring for and supporting people with dementia.
Some care homes have beds set aside for people requiring respite care or short breaks. However, it can be difficult to get respite care in a care home when it is wanted or needed because it depends on a room being available. If possible it can help to plan ahead for when respite care will be needed.
Respite care can be provided at home. Many people may prefer this because they can stay in a familiar environment and maintain daily routines. Respite care at home can involve a personal assistant, support worker, volunteer or paid carer visiting the home.