We all need a break sometimes don’t we?
It’s important to build communities for carers as well as people we support. For Carers Week, we spoke to Lorraine, Family Support Manager, who talks about this in more detail…
We all need time to get away from our day to day life and do something different. Perhaps a weekend away, a nice day out in the country or even just a day to go for lunch and a bit of shopping with a friend. We can book time off work and perhaps leave the kids with friends for a day or two without having to think too deeply about it. But being a carer can take the freedom and spontaneity out of life, leaving people with little time for hobbies and friendships and feeling very isolated. It is generally acknowledged that having a break from the stresses of everyday life is essential to our mental wellbeing, but if you’re a carer these breaks are often few and far between; there are many varied reasons for this.
Carers may not be aware that they could be entitled to respite provided by their local authority and even then, the process of applying for respite can be lengthy and complicated. Social Workers can come and go, therefore people often slip through the net and you may not wish tell people all your personal details. It may also be difficult to contemplate leaving the person you love in the care of others, especially if they have complex and challenging support needs or do not like being away from home.
There is no disputing that caring is both physically and mentally taxing. Carers often neglect their own health and wellbeing needs and are around 40% more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions, back problems, anxiety and depression, which can be directly linked to their caring role. Many carers feel chronically tired or even chronically sad.
Carers I meet often say that if they could get just one night of unbroken sleep it would make the world of difference. Having a few days of respite allows them to recharge their batteries, enabling them to carry on without breaking down. One carer told me that having regular respite over her many years of caring has been her salvation. Respite breaks give carers a chance to put themselves first for a change. Time to catch up with friends, pursue hobbies and interests and take a well deserved rest. It allows them the vital time they need to look after their own health and wellbeing. It is also an opportunity for the person they care for to experience being away from home which helps to prepare them for the future when their carer may not be able to care for them full time.
Respite should be an enjoyable time for the carer but it should also be enjoyable for the person they care for. There are a number of different types of respite available. There is of course the traditional respite care service that most carers of people with learning disabilities will be familiar with, but there are also other options that are becoming more popular, such as Shared Lives Respite where people spend time with a host family / carer in their home. This can feel like a home away from home and therefore more familiar to people. There is also the option to take a direct payment for respite and directly employ a carer to support people in their own home.
The starting point to apply for respite is to request a Carers Assessment. This is your right under the Care Act. You can do this by phoning or emailing your Local Authority Duty Social Work Team. They will arrange for a Social Worker to visit you at home to complete the assessment. It’s really important to be open with them about the difficulties you face. Carers often say they are coping, when what they really mean is that they are coping with great difficulty and are just about at breaking point. You may want to have an advocate with you at this assessment as it’s often difficult to speak about your own needs without getting emotional. Just remember, this is your opportunity to talk about how your caring role affects you and what you need in order to be able to continue providing care in the way you do.
If you have any questions or would like to talk about any of this with me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07872 400 973.
Lorraine JarmanFamily Support Manager
Lorraine works with families of people we support, offering advice, support and information to ensure families have a voice.