According to Carers UK, every year, 4.3 million people become unpaid carers – that’s 12,000 people a day.
But who is there to look after the carer themselves?
Respite care is a short-term solution 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 can be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do, however, it’s also a considerable commitment. It’s not uncommon for carers to provide over 50 hours of care a week for someone else, often continually, exposing the carer to fatigue and burnout.
Carers can feel guilty about taking time for themselves, despite the essential need for having a break from their responsibilities, but sometimes there’s also an unavoidable reason for being away.
There might be an emergency in the family which means the current carer is needed elsewhere, but by arranging care promptly, the worry or distress during a difficult time is greatly reduced.
Respite care works by putting in place a fully-trained carer who will follow existing routines. They are not there to take over completely; instead, they ensure that continuity of care is maintained.
Physical and emotional rest for a carer
Looking after someone else can take its toll physically and emotionally. The constant concern and worry for a loved one, coupled with practical activities such as supporting mobility, means that carers themselves can be vulnerable to stress and exhaustion.
While it’s admirable that carers go above and beyond for the person in their care, they also have to avoid putting their own health at risk. Even if it’s just for a short period, accepting extra support is essential for a carer’s wellbeing.
Why self-care is just as important as caring for someone else
Self-care might consist of small activities like doing a favourite hobby, cooking an enjoyable meal, or visiting a special place. However, it’s natural for a carer’s mind to still be on the welfare of their friend or family member.
This is where respite care comes in – a fully skilled carer will be on hand to follow specific routines or plans, ensuring they have the same high level of support as when the regular carer is with them.
As a result, a carer can return to their duties feeling rested and refreshed, knowing that the person they support has continued to be well taken care of.
How you can take care of you
If you’re a carer 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 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 relieves 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 health with regular GP check-ups and eating a balanced diet.
While it can be challenging looking after someone else, remember that your wellbeing is important too. Helping Hands have visiting and live-in carers available across the UK, so if you’re struggling while caring for someone else, we can help.
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.
Page reviewed by Sarah Franklin on November 24, 2022