One in 10 adults in the UK are carers in some form. That’s around seven million people. Many carers are unpaid, voluntarily giving their time to look after a family member or friend to make sure they have everything they need.
But who is there to look after the carer themselves?
Respite care is a short-term care solution put in place for when a carer goes away for any reason, ensuring the person they’re supporting still has the care they need.
Why might respite care be needed?
Being a carer, while rewarding, is also a considerable undertaking. It’s not uncommon for carers to provide over 50 hours of care a week for someone else, often on a continual basis, leading to a greater risk of ill-health.
Though having a break may well be something that a carer is considering, they often feel uncomfortable about leaving their loved one, and can even feel guilty about taking time for themselves.
There might also be an emergency in the family which means the current carer is needed elsewhere. Again, their first thought will be about the wellbeing of the person they are looking after already. By arranging care in a timely manner, the worry or distress during what is already a difficult time is greatly reduced.
Respite care works by putting in place a fully-trained carer who will follow the same routines which exist already. They are not there to take over completely; instead, they make sure that a continuity of care is maintained.
Physical and emotional rest for a carer
Looking after someone else can soon take its toll, both physically and emotionally. The constant concern and worry for a loved one, coupled with the practical activities such as supporting with mobility, means that carers themselves can be vulnerable to stress, exhaustion, and even more serious conditions.
In fact, carers who didn’t take regular breaks were twice as likely to experience ill mental health and had a 23% higher risk of a stroke according to the Carers Trust.
While it’s admirable that carers go above and beyond for the person in their care, they can put their own health at risk. Even if it’s just for a short period, accepting a little extra support and looking after their own wellbeing is essential for carers to continue looking after their loved one.
Why self-care is just as important as caring for someone else
We’ve all come across the phrase ‘self-care’ before but for carers, who give so much time and energy to taking care of somebody else, being able to dedicate that same love and care to themselves can be difficult.
Self-care might often consist of small activities like doing a particular hobby, cooking a favourite meal, or visiting a special place, but it’s natural for a carer’s mind to still very much be on the welfare of their friend or family member.
This is where respite care comes into its own – a fully-trained carer will be on hand to follow specific routines or plans, ensuring they have the same high level of support whilst the carer can take a few hours or even a few days just to recharge and unwind.
As a result, a carer can return to their duties feeling both rested and reassured that the person they support has also been well-taken care of.
How you can take care of you
If you’re one of the seven million carers in the UK looking after a relative or friend, there are some simple steps you can take to preserve your own emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Be honest about your own needs. If you’re finding yourself feeling more exhausted or taking on too much responsibility, speak to someone about your situation. Are there other family members who can help?
- Keep up with your own hobbies and interests. Whether it’s an hour of crochet or playing a sport, spending time doing something you enjoy provides a release from the pressures of supporting someone else.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. Keeping that social contact will ensure you don’t feel isolated and offers reassurance that people are there to help if needed.
- Look after your own health. Make sure you keep up a healthy diet and any vaccinations you need, as well as regular general health check-ups with your GP.
While it can be hard looking after someone else, remember that your wellbeing is important too and that there is always support available to you. We have carers across England and Wales ready to help if you need a rest.
Speak to one of our advisors about how respite care, on a short-term basis, can have positive long-term effects for you and your loved one.