How long can respite care last?

Respite care is designed to give regular caregivers a break from their usual duties, to enable them to go on holiday, or to take leave from their care role in order to address any personal matters. The length of time respite care lasts will differ from case to case, but you may be wondering how long you might receive this type of care based on your situation. 

Here, we are breaking down what length of respite care is necessary for different scenarios, how emergency respite care works, the limitations of respite care, and whether or not respite care will affect your Carer’s Allowance. 

At Home Instead, our aim is to help people age positively and in place by bringing expert care to their home. For nearly 20 years, we have been providing the highest standard of care, and creating industry-leading training programmes for our Care Professionals that are accredited by nursing and medical professionals. Today, we are the world’s largest global home care network, supporting over 100,000 older adults with personalised, tailored care at home. So whatever questions you have about respite care, we can help. 

What is respite care?

You can find in-depth information on respite care in our articles: What Is Respite Care? and The Benefits Of In-Home Respite Care. However, as a brief overview, respite care is temporary care which takes over the caring duties for an individual who needs daily help so their regular carer or family member can take a break. In many cases, those requiring care are looked after by partners, children or other close relatives, and they may have taken on this responsibility entirely by themselves and are giving their time for free.

Daily needs can become overwhelming, and can make it more difficult for family carers to manage other life responsibilities like working, caring for children or managing their own health, so respite care offers a chance to recharge their batteries and prioritise themselves.  

how long can respite care last

How long does self-funded at-home respite care last for?

Privately funded respite care can technically last as long as you want it to, but the length of time someone can expect to have respite care for often depends on why it is being used. For example, if someone requires respite care to:

  • Take a regular block of time off each week or month – This short-term form of respite care is available to those who need it, and may help by taking over during a regular appointment held by the carer, such as for one day per week. This can keep carer burnout at bay by providing frequent breaks, and proactively address stress issues so they do not lead to further problems.
  • Take a week off to go on a planned family holiday – This type of respite care can allow regular carers to take a week off safe in the knowledge that their loved one is being taken care of back home. 
  • Take several weeks off – If it is needed, several weeks of respite care can be arranged. This may be used to address serious cases of carer burnout, to cover a period of increased physical or mental load (such as a house move or a new baby), to attend a training course, or something else. 
  • Take a day off for a special event or other commitment – If a regular carer has a one-off commitment, such as a family wedding, graduation, or a legal appointment, respite care can be arranged if this is likely to interrupt their usual caregiving duties.  
  • Take an hour or two to manage personal matters or run errands – If only a few hours of respite are needed, sitting services can usually help with this, as well as at-home respite carers who can pop in for a few hours each day or week. This type of respite care can be helpful if someone has a particular medical condition such as dementia where they may feel uncomfortable or unsafe being alone for a long time.  
  • Cover the interim period after being discharged from hospital – While decisions are being made about the person’s long-term care plan, a respite carer might step in to provide convalescent care during the recovery from their hospital stay
  • Cover care in the case of an emergency – You can read more on emergency respite care below. 

How long does at-home respite care last if funded by a local council or charity? 

At-home respite care can be a flexible arrangement, but it does help to understand how it works, how long it can be arranged for, and the limitations if it is being arranged by your local council or a charity. Free respite care is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement, so it will not be provided for a set number of days or weeks. Instead, it is usually offered according to the needs of the individual. 

All of the scenarios mentioned above are valid reasons to request respite care, and you should never feel that you cannot reach out for help if you are stressed, burnt out, have other important commitments or need a holiday. 

Your local authority can arrange respite care if you qualify for this through your Carer’s Assessment. This is done to find out how things are going at the moment, if you need any additional training or support, or if there is anything else you need to make your role easier and more manageable.

Whether respite care is likely to be on a short-term basis or become an extended placement affects how the council will assess your entitlement to financial support. This is because respite care that could become a long-term arrangement may need to be reassessed to ensure the respite carers can continue to provide the appropriate care for the individual’s situation, and that there is genuine need for the regular carers to take a longer break. 

Charities and other organisations will have their own limit on how many days or weeks respite care can be arranged for based on their available staff and budget, but if you have a genuine need for respite care you do not need to worry about this – these organisations will do all they can to ensure respite care is put in place for as long as is required. 

Ultimately, the duration of respite care is bespoke to fit the circumstances and preferences of the individuals involved, so when an agency, council or charity puts respite care in place they must ensure that respite carers have the correct skillset to cover the required care needs. 

If you need more information on funding respite care, you may find our articles on these topics helpful:

how long can respite care last

How long does emergency respite care last for?

Emergency respite care is slightly different in that it is designed to be more flexible for last-minute scenarios and unknown circumstances. You might require emergency respite care if:

  • You suddenly fall ill or are involved in an accident that makes your caring duties difficult or impossible 
  • Someone else in your family suddenly falls ill or is involved in an accident, and you must attend to their needs instead
  • Someone close to you passes away and you must take bereavement leave
  • You must urgently cover unexpected childcare needs, or be at the birth of a new baby
  • Urgent personal matters arise, such as emergency home repairs, an ill pet, a work-related emergency, or something else that makes caring impossible without detrimental effects in your personal or work life 
  • Carer burnout unexpectedly becomes too much and you require a last-minute break from caring to avoid ill health or address mental health concerns, to ensure the person in your care continues to receive everything they need 

In many cases, emergency respite care can be covered by an alternate family member who understands the caring needs of the individual. It is best to think about this in advance, and speak to a trusted friend or family member about what might be needed in the case of some of the scenarios above – usually someone who lives nearby is best, and who is likely to be able to help at a moment’s notice. 

If you are taking care of things like managing medication for a loved one, or providing specific medical care, you should:

  • Keep an updated Care Plan so the person can step in at any time 
  • Regularly advise your appointed emergency respite carer on the most up-to-date details to ensure they can always take over if needed
  • Provide instructions on how to access the home (for example, by installing a key safe)
  • Leave notes around the home to make it easier for an emergency respite carer to find everything they need, and provide information in a simple, straightforward way 

If they cannot take over in an urgent situation, emergency respite care is usually still available through your local council, or through an agency if you are prepared to self-fund this care. It is best to research appropriate phone numbers and keep them on hand in the case of a last-minute emergency. This could be numbers for the relevant departments in your local council, charities that work in your area, or agencies like Home Instead who can step in quickly. 

What might respite care look like?

Respite care will look different depending on the care and medical needs of the person receiving care, as well as the needs of the regular caregiver. As mentioned, if you need a break for a week or two to go on a planned holiday with family to recharge your batteries, this will require a different arrangement than someone who needs one afternoon a week to go and run errands while someone stays with their loved one. 

An example fromthe charityScope UKsuggests that someone might receive 2 hours of respite care a week to allow the carer to shop or attend a course, or they might get 12 hours of support every 2 months so the individual requiring care can enjoy some activities without you and meet new people as a result. Another charity – The Respite Association – suggests that carer breaks could be anything from enabling you to attend an evening class, to going on a weekend break or a longer holiday.

how long can respite care last

Is there a limit to how long respite care can last?

The duration of respite care varies based on each person’s individual circumstances, needs, and available resources, so there are no strict limits on how long respite care can last for. In most cases, it will last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. 

For those with genuine need for respite care, an ongoing arrangement will not be a problem, and you should expect to be reassessed once several weeks have passed. If it is decided that more ongoing support is required, this may change the type of care you receive and the funding available to you, but your local council will always do their best to ensure you have the appropriate set-up for the person’s care needs. 

If you are caring for someone and believe you need respite care to step in to give you a break for any reason, do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help. If you are unsure when the right time for this might be, our article on this may help: Carer’s Burnout: Knowing You Need Respite

Does the use of respite care affect my Carer's Allowance?

A Carer’s Allowance is a payment of £76.75 a week given to anyone who cares for someone at least 35 hours a week, and they get certain benefits. If you receive Carer’s Allowance, keep in mind there may be some limits to how much respite care you are entitled to while being paid this amount, and you should check whether or not your payments will be impacted by requesting respite care for a longer period of time, such as several weeks.

If you are interested in working with an agency and self-funding respite care, our team at Home Instead can help by matching you with one of our highly trained Care Professionals (or a team of Care Professionals if required) who can deliver the exact services you need for a flexible or predetermined amount of time. 

how long can respite care last

Home Instead is an award-winning home care provider and part of a worldwide organisation devoted to providing the highest-quality relationship-led care for older people in their own homes. Arranging care for yourself or your loved one shouldn’t be stressful, so whatever questions you would like answered, feel free to reach out to the Home Instead team to discuss your needs.