Respite care: Arranging care when you are away

Caring for a loved one is a commitment which can take up a lot of physical and emotional energy. As a family caregiver, you should consider taking some time for yourself every now and then in order to recharge and to carry out your care tasks in the best possible way. Taking a break from your care responsibilities will enable you to keep providing the support your loved one needs, while also looking after your own health.

Arranging respite care will help you to do just that. You’ll be able to recharge by taking some time off from your care duties, while making sure your loved one is well looked after during your absence.

However, it can be a worrying prospect to leave behind someone who depends on you whilst you take time off. There are many ways you can make sure they are well cared for in your absence. You may:

  • Hand over instructions to another family member or friend
  • Place your parent in short-term residential care
  • Find a temporary part-time or live-in home Care Professional

Whatever your solution, in-home respite care can ensure that your loved one’s care and support needs are still met if you take a break.

Every situation is different, so it’s important to consider what will work best for your loved one, and discuss it with both them and the other people involved in their care.

So, keep reading to find out more about respite care and what arrangement might work best for you.


  • What is respite care and who is it for?
  • How can respite care help unpaid caregivers?
  • When shall I organise respite care?
  • What is emergency respite care?
  • What are the different types of respite care?
  • How can home respite care benefit my loved one?
  • What should I do before organising respite care?
  • How to arrange respite care
  • Is there financial support for respite care?

What is respite care and who is it for?

Respite care is planned or emergency temporary care provided to allow an unpaid family caregiver to take a break from their duties, safe in the knowledge that their relative is well looked after.

These short-term breaks allow family caregivers to relieve stress, take care of themselves, and spend time with other friends and family.

How can home respite care help unpaid caregivers?

The stresses associated with long-term caring can have serious impacts on a person’s health. 72% of the caregivers who responded to Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring.

Additionally, over half of all caregivers surveyed have suffered depression as a result of their caring role, and more than three-quarters have felt more anxious and stressed as a direct result of their caring role.

Although many families find immense satisfaction in providing care to their loved ones, the physical, emotional and financial challenges for family caregivers can be overwhelming without some support.

Yet, leaving your loved one when you need some time off can be a difficult prospect. Respite care can ensure that all of your loved one’s care needs are met, providing you with a much needed break, which can be immensely beneficial to your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

When shall I organise respite care?

A short break, be it for a few hours a week or for a holiday, can allow you to recharge and ensure that you’re at your best when caring for your loved one. Respite care can last anywhere from a few hours or days to several weeks depending on your particular needs.

Ideally, respite should be used before you become too worn out or overwhelmed by your responsibilities. Simply planning respite in advance can be a huge relief.

What is emergency respite care?

Respite care isn’t only available for when you need to take some time off. Emergency care can also be provided in urgent situations, for example if you become ill or have to go into hospital.

If you think emergency care may be needed at some point, it would be worthwhile to look into respite care options in advance, in order to be prepared in case the need arises.

What are the different types of respite care?

Respite care is generally available in three main formats:

Short-term residential care

Short-term residential care allows your loved one to move into residential care home on a temporary basis, meaning that all their needs are catered for in one place. When looking for residential care, it’s important to do the necessary research to ensure the home has adequate facilities and specialism to meet your loved one’s needs. Booking ahead can also ensure space is available during busy holiday times.

Adult day-centres

You may consider adult or elder day-centres if you need to ensure that your loved one is in a safe environment whilst you run errands or are not available during the day to look after them. They have the added benefit of providing stimulation, such as through planned activities or day trips, to help prevent your loved one becoming bored or distressed in your absence.

Respite care at home

Live-in or hourly respite care at home can be less disruptive than residential care. The temporary caregiver will come to your loved one’s home and learn their routine, allowing your relative to remain in familiar surroundings with their local support system. It may also be that, due to your loved one’s condition, such as if they are living with dementia, asking them to be in a different place for a short period of time is not an option. Respite home care can also be provided for a few hours, on a temporary or regular basis, to give you a chance to catch up with friends or family, run errands, or take some rest.

How can home respite care benefit my loved one?

Although residential care can ensure that all of your loved one’s needs are met in one place, home care is usually less disruptive: routines can continue and your loved one can stay in familiar and reassuring surroundings. Moreover, home care avoids or delays out-of-home placements, and can reduce the likelihood of errors being made during your absence.

Respite care for the elderly can fulfil all the roles of a permanent part-time or live-in Care Professional. Care can also be provided to meet a range of specialist needs, such as dementia careAlzheimer’s carehealth care or general personal care.

good respite Care Professional can also provide the necessary stimulation, recreation, and companionship that you would normally provide, as well as meeting all of the personal care needs your loved one may have.

What should I do before organising respite care?

Planning respite care in advance can ensure that all of your loved one’s needs are met, and that you give yourself the time to arrange the care properly.

  1. Discuss respite care with all parties involved. Talk openly about respite care with your loved one and the other people involved in their care. Considering the needs of everyone can ensure you get the best outcomes of respite.
  2. Identify the needs of your loved one. Consider whether they need help with mobility, transportation, eating, medications, and even things like mental stimulation. It’s also necessary to take into account their abilities in the context of what personal or specialist care they might need. Equally, consider your loved one’s preferences, to ensure their wishes are respected, and they receive dignified care in your absence.
  3. Assess your personal needs. Ask yourself how long you need respite for, and how often you may want it. Recognising your own feelings and discussing family involvement can make your role as a caregiver more balanced, whether or not you are in a period of respite.

How to arrange respite care

Organising care can be a daunting task. Where do you look? How do you arrange it? How can you find a trusted Care Professional?

If you decide to organise care through an agency, make sure that it is one you feel comfortable with, and that they provide thorough background checks for all their caregivers. It’s equally important to then ensure that any caregiver is a good match for your loved one.

You may also consider using an independent caregiver. If this is the case, it is wise to meet and interview the caregiver beforehand. To ensure that all of your loved one’s needs are met, be specific about the tasks, skills, and schedules involved, and the specific wishes of your loved one. Don’t forget to also carry out background checks on any independent caregivers and request several work and personal references. Finally, discuss compensation and payment schedules ahead of time, but do not pay for services in advance.

Is there financial support for respite care?

The new Care Act states that unpaid caregivers have the right to further support from local authorities with respite care costs. As such, respite care may be provided by your local authority. This will be determined by a Carer’s Assessment. Every unpaid family caregiver, irrespective of financial circumstance, is entitled to a carer’s assessment.

If you’re eligible for financial support, you can ask for a direct payment to hire a Care Professional. Alternatively, you can use the direct payment to pay for a supported holiday for both you and the person you’re caring for.

Here are some other sources of information on the matter:

  • Carers UK is the UK’s national membership charity for family caregivers. They provide advice and support to unpaid family caregivers.
  • CQC is the regulator of all health and social care services in England.