Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Caring for a loved one isn’t always easy.

While it can be a hugely rewarding role, looking after a friend or family member can also be physically and emotionally demanding.

The situation is even more complicated if you have other responsibilities, such as working and raising a family alongside caregiving.

This is where respite care comes in…

To give carers the rest they need to be more effective in their role, while also allowing care recipients a much needed break.

So in this article, we’ll learn more about the service and how to arrange it.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care might sound like a fancy term, but it really just implies short-term care relief for primary caregivers.

It appears in many forms, but in most cases, the service is provided by trained professionals, who can either deliver care at home or in specialist care centres.

Cover can be arranged for anything from a few hours to several days or weeks, depending on the needs of the person receiving care and the help required by the caregiver.

Who Is Respite Care For?

Respite care is aimed at both caregivers and those receiving care:


Carers are usually friends or family members supporting their loved ones; possibly an elderly parent or someone with an illness or disability.

Caregiving responsibilities may vary, from helping with simple household chores, to assisting with medication or even washing and dressing.

The positions are usually unpaid, in that those providing the help are not professional care workers, though they might receive a carers allowance.

Care Recipients

People require care for different reasons.

From normal age related issues to specific conditions such as dementia, social care services are designed to help these individuals maintain their quality of life.

Here are some common areas that respite care caters for:

Due to the wide spectrum of those needing support, respite care is rarely a one-size fits all approach and is therefore customised depending on an individual’s needs.

In some cases, an individual may require 24-hour support while in others, simple companionship for a few hours each week may suffice.

Regardless of the level of support required, respite care is a vital resource for millions of carers around the UK.

Let’s see why…

The Benefits of Respite Care

Respite care is beneficial to both carers and their loved ones alike:


Spending a significant amount of time with a friend or family member, coupled with the demands of the role can be challenging, especially with other life responsibilities to manage.

Some common reasons carers seek to organise respite care are as follows:

If such needs are ignored for too long, a caregiver might experience fatigue, stress and sometimes even burnout.

So seeking support when it’s needed is an essential part of being an effective carer.

By taking a break, caregivers can rest and recharge, restoring lost energy.

They can then return to their role feeling re-energised and refocused.

Applying for respite care and arranging an assessment is also an opportunity to gauge any additional assistance a care recipient may require and, in collaboration with professional care workers, identify new support strategies moving forward.

Loved Ones

Besides the obvious benefits for caregivers, respite care also provides an important outlet for those receiving care.

If respite care is provided by extended friends and family or they go to spend time with a relative, then it may be a welcome change of scenery, much like a mini-break or holiday.

With different professional care workers providing cover, care receivers can experience important variety and stimulation in their routine, meeting new people in the process.

If they have greater needs and go into a care home while their usual carer has a break, it’s a chance to experience life in a residential setting, which may help in planning for the future if their condition deteriorates or care needs increase.

So, if you’ve decided that you might benefit from a break, the next step is to decide what help you need.

Types of Respite Care

Let’s look at the different types of respite care available:

Sitting Services

Sometimes those receiving care do not require much help with activities of daily living. Instead they rely on companionship services to maintain their health and wellbeing.

These types of services are vital to reduce social isolation in elderly people and help them maintain a high quality of life.

In this type of respite, a trained volunteer, possibly from a carers’ organisation, can offer a sitting service to the person requiring care.

It is usually for a short period, such as a few hours and may provide an essential window to allow for carers to run errands and attend appointments.

Day Centres

Loneliness is a common issue for those receiving care, even if they have the companionship of a carer.

This is especially true if they are not independently mobile and have trouble socialising.

In such cases, day centres provide a change of scenery and an interactive space for meeting new people.

Services may range from simple coffee afternoons to activities including exercise, singing and games.

Some centres might even include transportation to and from the venue, especially when arranged by local charities and councils.

Home Care

Those who require regular care aren’t always in a position to leave their house.

Either through illness or disability, their mobility may be affected, which is where home care plays such a vital role.

Respite care delivered at home might be a one-off arrangement, include a regular schedule of visits or even live-in care, depending on the needs of the client.

An assessment will indicate the level of input required to best meet your needs.

Care Homes

As specialist facilities with full time staff and live-in residents, care homes can provide a higher level of input than homecare can often offer.

Furthermore, loved ones have additional peace of mind that trained professionals are on-hand to manage any care emergencies.

If a friend or relative has complex needs, this might be the best option.

It can also be a useful option to explore care services that might be necessary in the future and how a loved one copes in such an environment.

Emergency Respite Care

Emergencies happen, often when we least expect them.

In such cases, you might need cover for a short period while appropriate arrangements are made to ensure continuity of care.

Whether a regular carer is ill or has an accident, it’s essential to have a safety net in place to support vulnerable individuals.

This could involve having an agreement with a neighbour, friend or relative to step in at short notice when required.

In this instance, make sure the trusted person has access to the keycode combination to enter the house and create a brief care summary outlining your usual duties that you can leave in your loved one’s residence.

Alternatively, many private care organisations are well-positioned to offer flexible, professional care cover.

Respite Holidays

Respite holidays allow the primary caregiver and/or the person receiving care to take a break. There are three main options to choose from:

Care recipient holiday – In this instance, the person receiving care can take a break in a supported environment. Often travel can be arranged, with specialist facilities offering care activities and more importantly, a welcome change of scenery.

Holidays together – In this case, breaks can be taken together. Various organisations are available to provide such support, such as Tourism For All, Mind For You and Revitalise. These holidays allow you to plan your trip around specific interests and itineraries. However, it’s worth remembering that carers might not always have a full break from their daily responsibilities, although some support might be available.

Breaks for carers – Due to the nature of the role, it’s important for carers to arrange time off. That may be through a holiday or simply spending time off at home. Although carers may feel guilty for taking a break, it’s essential that they invest in their own health and wellbeing.

Services You Can Expect

In addition to the setting, respite care offers a range of care options, with both basic and complex care needs catered for.

To this end, trained respite care providers will ensure that your loved one is kept happy and comfortable.

Although an assessment will be required to determine the care provision needed, services may include the following:

The options offered by respite care providers may differ however.

This usually depends on whether your loved one is being looked after in their own residence or

a care home.

Therefore, it’s essential to discuss your needs with your assessor and individual respite care providers.

How to Arrange Respite Care

Before accessing respite care, you will need to contact the social services department of your local council to arrange assessments, one for the caregiver and another for the person receiving care:

Carer assessment: This assessment is to see how the carer is coping with their role and may lead to advice about benefits, gym membership for stress relief, housework and gardening assistance and possibly a break from caring responsibilities.

Needs assessment: This assessment will focus on how much help a care recipient requires day-to-day and may lead to equipment being offered, home modifications, access to day clubs and possibly additional input from professional carers.

It’s worth noting that in some regions, respite care is only provided after considering a care receiver’s assessment, while in other cases, the service is offered after performing a needs assessment for the person receiving the care.

If the assessments indicate that respite care is necessary, the local council can provide the appropriate recommendations.

Respite Care Costs

The average cost of respite care services in the UK is around £700-800 per week. In some instances, the cost can go as high as £1500 a week, depending on the type of intervention required.

Generally, live-in care, emergency respite care and care home services are more expensive due to the extra care input necessary.

Respite care services can be billed per hour or the number of days the services last.

Many people must pay towards the cost of their care. If the care assessments identify that help is needed, a financial means test will be performed, which will determine how much the council will contribute.

Typically, financial support is offered when the care receiver doesn’t have the capacity to pay for such services.

If the person receiving care qualifies for support, he or she may be allocated a personal budget to pay for the services agreed in the assessment report.

In some instances, your local council may provide care vouchers or arrange for the agreed assistance.

If your loved one has to pay for respite care services, they may have to raise the money towards this important break from their savings, income from formal employment, pensions, investments or property. Other people may have access to benefits, like an Attendance Allowance.

However, it’s not always necessary to pay for respite care. Instead, it may be possible to ask friends or family members to provide the appropriate cover. If you have a close support network, you can take occasional breaks or share roles.

In addition to the above, you can seek support from charities and benevolent funds to help spread the cost of respite services. They may also be able to contribute towards a break or holiday.

Even if you don’t require council funding, it’s important for the care receiver to have a needs assessment.

This will help identify the respite care appropriate for your situation and also help inform any continuing care needs moving forward.

Next Steps and Checklist

  1. Talk to your loved one about respite care options to give you both a break
  2. Include family and friends in the decision-making process
  3. Contact the council to arrange the relevant care assessments
  4. If care needs are identified, organise a financial means test
  5. Investigate whether you can get help from any charities or benevolent funds
  6. Check the respite care options in your local area, after receiving advice from the council
  7. Look at the CQC ratings and reports for homecare agencies or care homes that may deliver the service
  8. Speak with individual providers and ensure they can offer everything you need for your well-earned break.


Respite care is an essential service for anyone investing time and energy to look after a loved one.

And while it’s understandable that it may be challenging to break the routine, it’s essential for any healthy, sustainable care relationship.

If you think you’d benefit from this service, reach out to your GP or local council today and arrange that break you both deserve.