Care Guides > Emergency Respite Care: Breaks For Carers

Emergency Respite Care: Breaks For Carers

What is emergency respite care and who is it for?
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If you feel like it’s needed, then taking a break from care is really important. Respite care is a short-term solution - often for one or two weeks - where a different carer takes over your responsibilities.

These respite breaks can be planned or unplanned, depending on the circumstances, and can take place in your own home or a respite care home.

We’ve discussed emergency respite care and respite care in general, including the different options, making a care plan, respite care costs, funding and the benefits to carers and those receiving care.

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In this article on emergency respite care:

  1. What is emergency respite care?
  2. The different options for respite care
  3. Responsibilities of respite carers
  4. Making a respite care plan
  5. Costs of emergency respite care
  6. Funding respite care
  7. Respite care and benefits
  8. Support for carers - benefits and services
  9. Helpful resources

What is Emergency Respite Care?

Emergency respite care refers to a range of services (often in a care home setting) that are aimed at covering the needs of a dependent person in case their regular carer is unavailable, due to unexpected circumstances.

While this often isn’t thought about too much until the need arises, making provisions for emergency respite care is really important and will provide a sense of comfort and relief to all concerned.

Think about who you could contact during an emergency. This could be a relative, a friend or a neighbour. Ideally, this person would step in for a few hours while any arrangements are made. Make sure this person has door keys and knows the type of care the person you look after will need.

Respite care itself means taking a temporary break from caring while the person you care for is looked after by someone else. This allows you to relax and take some time for yourself, to prevent exhaustion and feeling run down.

Respite care comes in several different forms. It could mean someone regularly visiting the home of the person you’re caring for. It could also refer to a respite care home or adult day centre. Respite holidays are another popular option - where carers can take a well-earned break, whether this be with or without the person they care for.

The Different Options For Respite Care

When it comes to respite care, there are several options to choose from. The main types are:

  • Respite care homes (a short stay in a home-from-home setting)

  • Day care centres

  • Hiring a carer (home care)

  • Sitting services

  • Help from family and friends

  • Respite holidays

We’ve gone over each of these options in detail below.

Respite care homes

The most common form of respite care is through a respite care home. Here, short-term relief can be provided to caregivers. If you’re the caregiver then rest assured that while the person you’re caring for is in a respite home, they’ll be well looked after. The staff at your chosen care home will sit down with you to discuss your loved one’s needs and their likes/dislikes, so you can be sure that everything is taken care of.

Within a respite home, temporary care will often last from one to two weeks. During this period, your loved one will be supported in a home-from-home setting with all their personal needs taken care of.

It can be difficult to find space at short notice, but some homes take advance bookings which can help you when trying to plan ahead. For example, if you’re looking to book a holiday then you can match the dates with when you plan on taking this holiday.

Day care centres

Adult day care centres offer a planned programme of activities in a professional care setting. They’re designed to look after older adults who require support during the day, or those who are feeling isolated and lonely.

Above all, day care centres provide the opportunity for people who otherwise find it difficult to get out and about to socialise, make new friends and take part in fun activities. Some of the facilities and activities that could be included in a day care centre are singing, games, arts and crafts, hairdressing, foot care and assisted washing. Transport is often provided as well, but there may be a separate charge for this.

To qualify for council-funded day care visits, the person you’re looking after will need to have had a care needs assessment.

Day care centres offer activities like games

Finding a day care centre

Day care centres tend to be run by councils or local charities.

To find out what’s available in your area, you can contact:

Hiring a carer

Another option is to arrange for a paid carer to help out at the home of the person you’re caring for - this is also known as home care.

This type of respite service can either be full-time or part-time.

If the person you care for needs 24-hour supervision then you can arrange live-in care.

If the required level of support is less stringent then you could arrange for a carer to visit one day a week, allowing you to work, study or take the day off. Alternatively, a carer could be hired for a short period - such as a week - so you can take a holiday.

The person you look after will have to get a needs assessment to qualify for council-funded home care.

Finding a carer

The following methods can all be used to locate an excellent carer near you:

Sitting services

Some charities and carers’ organisations offer sitting services. Here, a trained volunteer will keep the person you care for company. This will typically be for a few hours at a time, giving you the chance to relax, if only for a short period. This type of sitting service will either incur a small charge or be totally free!

Volunteers usually won’t provide personal care, but they can help with basic tasks like making meals or going to the shops, along with providing a friendly face.

With that being said, some sitting services do provide care. This means you can take a break, even if the person you care for needs lots of support, including personal care. These services employ paid support workers, as opposed to volunteers.

The person you care for will usually need an assessment before a sitting service can be used. This could be as simple as speaking with the organisation providing it, or having an assessment from the local council.

Finding a sitting service

The following organisations offer sitting services. You can click through these links to find out if a sitting service is available in your area:

Help from family and friends

While you’re caring for someone, friends and family might move into the home of that person on a temporary basis. Alternatively, they could invite the person you’re caring for to stay with them for a little bit.

Respite holidays

Respite holidays allow carers and people who need to be cared for to take a break from everyday life.

Finding a respite holiday

The following charities and organisations can arrange respite holidays in the UK:

  • MindforYou offer supported holidays in the UK. These holidays are aimed at people living with their dementia and their regular carers and are to be enjoyed together

  • Charities such as Revitalise offer subsided holidays for elderly or disabled people

  • Family Fund provides grants that go towards the cost of holidays for low-income families who are caring for a child with a severe disability

  • Family Holiday Association offers breaks at holiday sites, along with grants to help with the cost of a holiday. These grants are aimed at low-income families. To take advantage of this scheme, you’ll need to be referred by your social worker, GP or health visitor, or by a registered charity or other welfare agent

Respite holidays

Responsibilities of Respite Carers

A respite carer is there to perform all the tasks that you’d do otherwise.

If you decide to hire a carer then they can either live in your home to provide round-the-clock care or make regular visits. This will be determined by a care plan which will be completely catered to you or your loved one’s needs. This support plan is created before any temporary care begins, to ensure that all your requirements are met.

Similarly, respite care homes, day centres and sitting services will offer an excellent level of support while you take a break from caring.

Your carer’s daily tasks could include:

  • Nursing care - Such as providing help with catheter or continence support

  • Personal care - Assistance with day-to-day tasks like dressing, showering, eating and using the toilet

  • Mobility support - Helping your loved one move around the house

  • Administering medication - Ensuring the correct medication is taken at the correct time

  • Providing companionship - Offering emotional support and somebody to talk to where needed

  • Meeting dietary requirements - Cooking nutritious meals and going to the shops to get food as required

  • Housekeeping - Tasks such as washing and drying clothes

  • Transport and trips - Arranging day trips out, as well as visiting family and friends

  • Pet care - If you or your loved one has any pets then these can be fed and cared for

Making a Respite Care Plan

A respite care plan is a collection of documents and instructions that’ll help prepare a new caregiver when filling in for the primary caregiver who is taking a short break from care.

Creating a comprehensive care plan is important as the new caregiver will have all the information they need to create a safe environment for your loved one.

A respite care plan should include the following:

  1. Medical information

  2. Personal routines

  3. Interests and activity ideas

  4. Emergency procedures

Making a respite care plan

Medical information

Your respite care plan should include the following:

  • Medications and dosage instructions. These medications should be kept in their original bottles and in an easy-to-access location

  • A medical summary with any background information that the caregiver ought to know

  • A comprehensive medical record in case the caregiver needs to refer to it during an emergency situation

  • Names and contact details of doctors

  • Any allergies; including food, medicines and materials

Personal routines

Understanding the day-to-day routine and habits of your loved one will make caring for them much easier. Be sure to jot down the following:

  • Typical sleeping, walking and meal times, along with any other routines a caregiver should know about

  • Times of day when your loved one has more or less energy, as well as any mood changes that may occur

  • Food suggestions - nothing improves somebody’s day like a delicious meal

  • Activities they may need help with, such as standing, walking, exercise, reading, personal care and hygiene

Interests and activity ideas

Brainstorm a list of all the things your loved one enjoys.

If you’re struggling with this, some of our favourite ideas include:

  • Writing letters and sending cards

  • Walking or similar gentle exercises

  • Music

  • Dancing

  • Brain teasers

  • Calling or video chatting with family and friends

  • Playing games

Emergency procedures

Whether you’re a carer, the person being cared for or a family member/friend, making an emergency care plan will go a long way to providing peace of mind if any unforeseen circumstances should arise.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Create a list of emergency contacts with names, relations, phone numbers, and addresses for everyone on the list

  • Provide information surrounding the nearest hospitals and emergency rooms, such as the address, phone number and opening hours (if applicable)

Create an emergency care plan

Costs of Emergency Respite Care

According to research based on over 100 providers from the UK care guide, respite care costs an average of £700 to £800 per week.

However, this figure can become much higher in certain circumstances, such as when emergency respite care or live-in elderly care are required. When around-the-clock care and support are necessary, respite care costs can be as much as £1,500 a week.

When only occasional help is required, you should instead look into respite costs per day.

Funding Respite Care

When it comes to paying for respite care, you or the person you care for can personally pay if you wish to. This is known as self-funding. The other main two ways of getting help with the costs incurred are from the council or through a registered charity.

Both your local council and the NHS can offer guidance and funding options for respite care. Charitable organisations like Carers Trust and Turn2us can offer assistance in finding grants for carers in need of respite with financial difficulties.

To get council funding, you’ll need to complete an assessment. Carers require a carer’s assessment while the dependent person will require a needs assessment.

The purpose of an assessment is to detail the exact needs and financial situation of the dependent person. Knowing this will help the council understand whether the dependent person qualifies for respite care and if it’ll need to be partly or fully funded.


If you or the person you’re caring for has to pay for respite care, then there are a few places that this money could be raised from:

  • Income from pensions, work, investments or any properties

  • Savings

  • Benefits like Attendance Allowance


As we mentioned, there are two main charities to look out for when it comes to getting help with funding.

The Carers Trust offer some grants to carers who need respite services.

Meanwhile, the charity Turn2us can help you out with the process of finding grants. When clicking their link, all you need to do is enter your UK postcode, gender and age. Their simple-to-use search engine will then return several grants that are appropriate to you or the person you’re caring for.

Council funding

Councils will only partially or fully pay for respite care when those requiring it have passed a needs assessment and carer’s assessment.

If you or the person you care for requires respite care, the council will then conduct a financial assessment to work out if they’ll pay towards it or not.

If you or the person you care for qualifies for council-funded care, you can ask the council to arrange this for you. You can also do this yourself through a personal budget or direct payment.

Needs assessment

A care needs assessment is a special test that helps to identify somebody’s unique care needs, what kind of care is required and how much support they’ll need. A needs assessment is free and anyone can ask for one. Meanwhile, a financial assessment will determine if financial support is required.

You’ll need an assessment before the council can recommend a service like access to day centres or a short-term respite care home.

If the local council deems you or your loved one as eligible for local council care support then they’ll usually conduct a financial assessment as well, to see if they need to pay for some or all of the care costs.

You can apply for a needs assessment through GOV.UK.

Getting a care needs assessment

Respite Care and Benefits

Though caring for someone is often a rewarding, positive and fulfilling experience, the opportunity to take a break can benefit the person doing the caring and the person receiving the care. Caring for someone can be a full-time occupation, and an exhausting one at that, which is why allowing regular carers the break they need is so important.

Here are some of the other benefits of short-term respite care for the carer and the person receiving care:

  • It reduces stress for the carer and their family

  • It relieves feelings of frustration and exhaustion, improving well-being as a result

  • It allows the carer time to interact with family, friends and the wider community

  • It will likely improve the relationship between the carer and the person being cared for

  • The person receiving care will be surrounded by like-minded individuals and even form some lovely friendships!

The benefits of respite care

Support For Carers - Benefits and Services

As a carer, you may be able to claim the following financial support benefits:

  • Carer’s allowance

  • Carer’s credit

  • Carer premium

  • Local welfare assistance

  • Universal credit

  • Help with housing costs

If you’re on a low income then you may also be entitled to financial help with fuel, health costs, council tax and home repair services.

You can continue to receive your Carer's Allowance for up to four weeks in any six-month period if you have a break from caring.

You or the person you’re caring for may also be able to take advantage of the following free services:

  • Citizens advice help to claim service

  • Motability scheme

  • Blue badge parking

  • Disabled persons railcard

  • Cinema exhibitor’s association card

Helpful Resources

If you’re a carer looking for any additional information surrounding needs assessments, different types of care, care home plans or benefits and grants then be sure to check out our bank of useful resources below:

Getting a Care Needs Assessment

Different Types of Care

Care Home Plans

Care Home Benefits

Searching for emergency care can be a stressful and time-consuming experience. Thankfully, Lottie removes much of the difficulty from this process by connecting elderly people to the UK’s very best care homes through years of human expertise and smart technology.

Check out our list of respite care homes across the UK and everything care-related we have to offer!

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