Support for carers

If you care for someone close to you, remember that it’s important to take care of yourself too. Like anyone, you need to have time to yourself to relax and do the things you enjoy. Although you may feel that you have be there all the time, you won’t be doing your loved one any favours by wearing yourself out. Fortunately, help is out there to enable you to take a break, so you can come back refreshed.

Your rights as a carer

If you’re not employed as a care worker but you help to look after someone day to day, you are recognised as having distinct legal rights. The Care Act 2015 states that adults (those aged over 18) who care for other adults must be assessed by the local authority to determine whether they are entitled to extra help. If you are under 18 or care for someone under 18, your rights are covered by children’s law.

Your needs and wants will be taken into consideration when deciding how much support you are eligible for. It recognises that you have a right to work if you want to, and to study and have time off. The Care Act was set up to ensure you can pursue your own hobbies and goals, while still helping to care for your loved one.

What support do you need?

Anyone caring for another adult is entitled to a carer’s assessment, regardless of your financial situation or how much care you offer. Young carers and carers for young people with disabilities will have similar assessments.

When you’re assessed by your local authority, you’ll have the chance to discuss your own wants and needs. The aim of the assessment is to determine whether the care you give affects you and your wellbeing. You will be asked to describe the care you provide, and whether it stops you from doing everyday activities like looking after children, cleaning, preparing nutritious meals, socialising and maintaining relationships with friends and family.

The assessment helps the council to consider ways in which they can help you. This support could be in the form of professional care workers or equipment to make your care role easier. You will be given a support plan, which, like a care plan, outlines what needs you have and how they will be met. Even if you aren’t eligible for help from the authority, they will outline ways you can adjust your role to suit you and your lifestyle better.

As a carer you may also qualify for various benefits and financial support. Find out about the financial support available for carers.

Do you need a break?

You might not feel that you need a break because care has become a normal part of your life, but having time to concentrate on yourself is essential, and can enable you to give better care in the long term. Here are just some of the reasons you should consider respite care:

  • Free time – You should be able to enjoy some ‘me time’ doing hobbies, seeing friends and family or simply unwinding.
  • Other commitments – Whether you are studying, working or looking after your own children, these commitments are all important and you need to have enough free time to dedicate to each of them.
  • Holiday – It might not feel essential to go away, but extended periods of time when you’re not caring for someone can hugely improve your wellbeing – it is why annual leave is considered vital for employees, and it’s the same for carers.
  • Illness – If you yourself become ill, you’ll need to take some time to rest and get better. It’s worth bearing in mind that if your health deteriorates, it will be more difficult to care for your loved one.
  • Your own health – Keeping yourself healthy is vital, and you need time to do exercise and catch up on any sleep you have missed.
  • Unexpected events – If something happens that you don’t expect, like a family emergency, you may need some time away from your care role.

What are my options for respite care?

There are three main types of respite care:

  • Domiciliary care – Care workers can come to your home to look after your loved one, giving you some time off. You would generally turn to this option when you need a few hours off per week, rather than a few days away. If you do want someone there all the time, you could consider temporary live-in care.
  • Day centres – If you need to take a day off, your loved one could attend a day centre. They will be looked after alongside other people, and there are usually activities to help them socialise and enjoy their time away from you. For example, day centres will sometimes organise trips out.
  • Residential care – If you would like to go on holiday or have a few days away, your loved one could stay in a residential care home for a short period. You’ll then have the peace of mind of knowing they will be cared for 24/7.

To explore your options for respite care, you can contact a care agency for homecare or speak to local residential care homes about availability.

Paying for respite care

Often, people choose to care for others to save money on professional care. Respite care may seem expensive, but it will almost certainly cost less than permanent care.

You can talk to a financial adviser about ways to fund respite care. You may also be eligible for help to cover some or all of the costs.

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