What is Respite Care? Exploring Options for Elderly Loved Ones

What is Respite Care? Exploring Options for Elderly Loved Ones

Respite care is a short-term, temporary break from caring for a loved one. It’s a service that we offer here, at Eastleigh, in our residential homes, when space allows. The goal is to give you a vital break.

What is respite care?

The reality is that caring for an elderly loved one can be demanding and exhausting. Even if you don’t have other commitments, ranging from your own dependent children to a job, caring for a loved one is physically and emotionally demanding. It is impossible to do it non-stop for months or years without burning out. A break is essential.

Respite care is a way of giving the carer a temporary break from their caring commitments, whilst also ensuring that your elderly loved one is still appropriately cared for.

There are a number of different ways in which respite care can happen. The simplest and easiest to organise is probably the type of respite care we offer here at Eastleigh: your elderly loved one temporarily moves into residential care, rather like a hotel stay. Their care needs are met, within the typical infrastructure of the residential or nursing home, and the primary caregiver gets a much needed break.

There are also alternative methods of respite care. It may be possible to arrange for the individual with care needs to be taken to a day centre, which can give the carer a few hours off. This may even be organised through your local adult social care department. Another alternative is to arrange for a paid carer, or team of carers, to look after your loved one within their own home.

Why is respite care important?

If you are the primary carer of a loved one, we urge you to consider your own wellbeing. It is exhausting caring for elderly or infirm loved ones. That’s not to say you don’t want to care for them, but the reality of being the one who shoulders the responsibility day-in-day-out can very quickly take its toll. Even if you are ‘only’ popping in once a day, compared to being there 24/7, the mental load is immense.

And the reality is that if your own health and wellbeing takes a dive, you won’t be able to care for your loved one effectively anyway. It’s an incredibly hard situation, but you need to recognise the need for respite care and how important it is to the long-term viability of the care arrangements you have in place.

Respite care can be used for a number of different reasons. It can be used to allow you time off from the practicalities of caring, so that you can go away or on holiday. It can be used whilst you meet your own wellbeing needs, such as having surgery. But perhaps most importantly, it can serve to prevent you from being isolated and exhausted. This is a huge problem, with a staggering 71% of carers having poor physical or mental health.

It is absolutely not selfish to take some time for yourself, so that your batteries are recharged and you can continue being a loving and effective carer.

It’s not just the carer that benefits from respite care

It can help you make the decision to organise respite care by realising that the benefits aren’t solely enjoyed by the primary caregiver. The cared-for individual stands to benefit from respite care too.

Those receiving respite care are exposed to new situation, with variety and stimulation outside of their everyday experience. This can bring them energy and engagement. For example, at Eastleigh, it is very much like coming for a home-from-home holiday with all the benefits of a first class hotel!

There’s also the reality that there’s another set of eyes on the individual. It can be difficult to notice deterioration over time when you care for the person. Professional carers can help you understand their current needs and also share with you tips and ideas that will make your caring responsibilities easier.

Respite care can also effectively be a ‘try before you buy’ experience. It can be an opportunity to prepare for a future transitional move into residential care, or to ‘sell’ the idea to a reticent individual. Often when elderly people actually try out a home, through residential care, they suddenly feel like they want to stay and that they have been missing out. It’s because the stereotype of life in residential care gets blown out of the water when they experience the companionship, comfort, fine dining and social experiences for themselves!

Obstacles in the way of getting respite care

We fully understand that there are so many things that may make you feel that organising respite care is impossible. Handing over the care of your loved one, when you are so intimately involved, can be monumentally hard. You may feel that the situation is too complex, or that no one else will understand your loved one’s idiosyncrasies like you, or be forgiving of their difficult nature because they aren’t a loved one. These are all normal experiences, and not insurmountable.

However, time and again, we see the biggest obstacle is a sense of guilt, on the part of the caregiver. We also see situations were caregivers may feel inadequate or not needed, if they take up respite care.

But it’s essential that you remember that a variety of relationships, especially caring relationships, are vital for your wellbeing and that of your loved one. You are the one who will continue to love your elderly relative the most, but that doesn’t mean that the care for them won’t be exemplary when provided by caring and attentive professionals. Your loved one may even appreciate you more when you return from your break.

At our Eastleigh homes, we offer respite care when we have availability. We’re here to support the individual and their families. Contact us 01769 573166.