How do I set up respite care for someone with dementia?

Caring for a loved one with dementia is physically and emotionally exhausting so if you need a break – and everyone does at some point – here’s how to arrange it

Could this be you?

You’re worn out and you know you should take some time off from caring but
- Your loved one might become very upset if you’re not there.
- You’d worry too much to enjoy yourself.
- Money is tight, you simply can’t afford it.

Caring is hard enough without feeling you can’t ever have a rest. So whether you’d like a couple of hours, or a couple of weeks to yourself, find out what to do if you need someone else to take over while you have some time off.

Respite care is…replacement care which is short term and has been planned in advance.

Ask for a carer’s assessment

These are often done at the same time as a care needs assessment and help to identify what support you both need on the dementia journey. These assessments should also reveal if you are entitled to financial help, which can include funding for respite care.

Did you know? Some respite care is free but it’s often means-tested and the person with dementia could have to make some sort of contribution towards it.

Funding for respite care

The Care Act 2014 makes it clear that if anyone does have to pay for respite care it should be the person with dementia (not the carer) but that they should only be charged a ‘reasonable amount.’

But even if you know you aren’t eligible for financial help, it’s still worth having a carer’s assessment because it could provide you with all sorts of information about respite care and the choices available in your area. So if you haven’t had a carers assessment (or haven’t had one recently and feel you now need more help) contact your local social services department to arrange one.

Your local council will provide you with contact details for social services (just phone and ask) or go to your council’s website – all the information will be there.

Two types of respite care

1. Your loved one can be cared for at home by a professional carer (funded by the council if you are eligible) whilst you go out for a few hours, or even take a holiday.

2. They could go to a residential care home for a short stay.

Warning: Although most carers prefer the idea of their loved one staying at home, rather than being moved somewhere new for a short while, this might not be feasible, especially if they have complex care needs which you – or your local authority – can’t afford to fund. So try to keep an open mind. Your loved one might actually enjoy the stimulation of a new environment, even if it is only a temporary arrangement.

Feeling guilty?

- Talk to other carers who’ve experienced a similar dilemma here.
- Find out why carer ‘me time’ is so important and could help stave off stress and depression and even improve your health.

What happens if you have no funding, and no money?

If for some reason you aren’t able to get your break funding and can’t afford to pay for it yourself don’t give up. Here’s a few more ideas you could try.

Friends and family

Could the person you’re caring for go to stay with someone else for a few days? Or could they come to stay in your home so you can take a break? Remember, it isn’t selfish to ask for help, it’s essential for your physical and mental health. Besides, your loved one might need a break from you as well!

Little and often

If a week’s holiday or an overnight stay is too complicated or expensive to arrange, could short, regular breaks be worth considering? Take a look at local day centres and activities for people with dementia and remember all the people who offered help when your loved one was first diagnosed. You may not have seen some of them recently – dementia does, sadly, still carry a stigma – but you might be pleasantly surprised by how many of them would still be happy to offer you practical help.