what is respite care

What is respite care? A complete guide to this essential service

4 min read

If you're wondering 'what is respite care?' this guide can help you out.

It may seem obvious, but for clarity let's be clear - respite is not primarily for the person who needs care services.

The purpose of respite is to give the main carer in your family a break from their day-to-day responsibilities.

This is essential as providing care long-term can be emotionally and physically draining, no matter how much love you have for your relative.

There are many different options available to you so let's take a closer look at what is respite care?

Here’s a summary of what we will cover:

  • Respite aims to provide seamless care to a person, while giving their regular unpaid carer a break.
  • The types and durations of respite are very varied, depending on the needs of the person, and the carer.
  • Hospices and care homes are not the only options for respite care. Daycare centres and home-care visits can be helpful.
  • Family and friends may also provide respite. This particularly applies when the regular carer is unable to provide care at short notice.
respite care at home

What is respite care and who is entitled to it?

The definition of respite care is: Temporary institutional care of a sick, elderly, or disabled person, providing relief for their usual carer.

While you may have thought of respite care being more for the benefit of the person being cared for, it’s not.

It is actually to give the person’s usual carer some time off from caring, a break – a rest.

With around 1 million carers in the UK aged over 80 respite care is vital.

Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download

What is respite care and who is entitled to it?

Who qualifies?

Respite care is applicable to those who are caring for a friend or a family member in an unpaid capacity.

Claiming carers’ benefit does not affect your eligibility for respite care. 

People who are in a paid caring job, or who work in a care home for example, are not eligible for respite care.

Instead, they are in a structured job role whereby holidays and time off are included. 

Those who act as unpaid carers – even in receipt of caring benefits – do not have this structure and are entitled to respite.

And if you’re wondering ‘can I claim carer’s allowance for myself?’ go here.

Why do carers need respite care? 

Why do carers need respite care? 

Caring for another person, regardless of their needs, can be an exhausting and draining task.

It is often a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week responsibility.

But it can also be an intensely rewarding and joyful experience. 

However rewarding it may be, it is unrealistic to expect a carer to do this non-stop.  

Compassion fatigue

A carer may be in their caring role for years on end, carrying the responsibility of another person’s care.

The emotional toll of this responsibility has the potential to be high.

Carers need time to attend to their own needs, and to rest and relax.

Ultimately, it aims to prevent carers from experiencing burnout, both emotionally, mentally and physically. 

Where is respite care available?

There are a variety of different options for respite care.

A daycare centre is a great choice for regular respite care.

Attending regularly will allow a carer time during the day for their own needs.

Respite care at home

You may instead choose to arrange a home care visits package from a reputable care provider.

This can involve whatever level of care you need or want.

You may want a week off for a holiday, or a day or two here and there to attend to personal tasks and appointments.

Find the right respite care for you

Respite care in a hospice

The most well-known respite care comes from hospices.

These are only for people with life-limiting or terminal diseases.

Very frail or elderly people without a terminal illness will not be able to attend a hospice for respite care.

Respite care in a care home

These people will, however, be welcomed at a care home, or nursing home for the elderly.

There are many specialist care homes treating different illnesses such as dementia.

Many care homes offer short term placements of a few weeks for respite care.

There’s more here on care home costs.

local authority funding for respite care

Can family and friends provide respite care? 

Yes, they can. However, it can be a challenging task to provide some personal care needs for family and friends.

It may also be hard physical work if the person needs help with mobility or lifting. 

If willing and able, family and friends may form part of a support circle for a full-time carer.

It is also important that the person being cared for accepts and is happy with friends or family members caring for them. 


Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download

How much does respite care cost?

The cost of respite care can vary significantly, depending on the duration, location, and the needs of the person. 

You or your loved one may be eligible for caring services or financial help from the local authority.

There are many financial benefits for the elderly.

Financial benefits

They should have had a needs assessment and a financial assessment when they began to need care.

These assessments mean that the council will be able to decide what help you are eligible for.

This could be some respite in a home, carers visiting regularly or a combination of options.

You should also have a carers assessment done.

This may show that you are in need of a break from caring duties.

How much does respite care cost?

What your local authority can do

In conjunction with your person’s financial assessment, it may mean that the local authority helps financially with respite care costs. 

Your local authority may run a free/low-cost daycare centre, whereby transport and food are the only paid elements.

Churches and other religious institutions may also provide low-cost daycare facilities.

Where is respite care available?

Other respite options to consider

Sitting services are available through some charities.

These involve trained volunteers keeping your loved one company for a few hours.

It is important to note that they will not be able to provide routine care.

This type of service is normally either free or very low cost.

Family and friends may also offer to provide unpaid respite care, just needing the cost of expenses reimbursed. 


memory cafes for dementia respite care

Memory cafes are a great choice

There may be something like a memory cafe in your area.

These are cafes especially designed for people needing dementia care.

They provide a stimulating and safe atmosphere, with activities designed to help people living with the condition.

This may be a low-cost option for a few hours of respite care. The person will need a carer, be it family, friend or paid-for, to accompany them.

respite care options

Find the right respite care for you

You may choose to pay for your respite care, through a respite space at a care home or a hospice for a fortnight during your holiday.

These costs can vary depending on the service you need, the area you live in, and the duration of the care.

If you need help finding respite care then why not use the Sweet Pea personalised matching service?

All you need to do is enter your loved one’s care needs and we’ll do the hard work for you.

We’ll match you with trusted carers in your local area so that you can get the support you need.