Carers need breaks too

Caring woman hands over elderly hands being concept of trust and reliability.

Life as a carer can be tough and many find that their own health and wellbeing suffers as a result of their hard work. It's therefore important that you take a break to re-energise and relax, whether it's a holiday abroad, or even just a day out. Here are some tips to help you get some much-needed R'n'R.

Local authority help
Your local authority may be able to help by providing financial support and replacement care so that you can take some time off. If you are a full-time carer, or caring for someone on a 'substantial' basis, you can ask your local authority to carry out a carer's assessment, which will look at the impact the care and support you provide is having on your own wellbeing and day-to-day life. It can be carried out over the telephone, online or in a face-to-face meeting. If it is agreed that you need a break and that you are eligible for support, a support plan will be devised, including a personal budget that allows you to hire a care worker or agency so that you can take a day off, or take a supported holiday for both you and the person you care for.

In some cases, local authorities will provide vouchers, which you can exchange for services from care agencies, residential homes or hospice care, or use to pay for the costs associated with a holiday, such as live-in care workers or a short residential stay.

Alternative funding
There are several charities and benevolent funds here in the UK designed to help with giving carers a break. The Saga Respite for Carers Trust, for instance, offers a limited number of free holidays each year for carers over the age of 50 and the people they care for. The Family Fund provides grants to help with the cost of holidays for low-income families who have a severely disabled child, and the Children's Country Holiday Fund is designed to give young carers (aged six to 16) some time off in the countryside.

Other charities offer bursaries or low-cost holidays in a bid to give carers time off, and Turn2us is a great place to start if you are looking for some sort of financial support. Your GP, social worker or health visitor should be able to provide you with further information about potential sources of funding in your area.

Discounted days out
Sometimes just a break from the norm can make all the difference, and if you're a carer on a low income, you can take advantage of discounts on a range of activities, services and entertainment. Many local authorities offer leisure cards that cut the cost of everything from sports activities to theatre tickets, cinemas to hairdressers. Though there is a small annual charge (anything from £1 to £15 depending on the area), and the eligibility requirements do vary between areas, if you are a full-time carer on a low income, there's a good chance you will qualify.

Planning tips
If you have arranged a carer's assessment, emergency planning for when you're away should form part of the discussion, but however you have organised respite care, it is essential that you make a plan in case something should happen while you're away. You will need to create a pack, as it were, that includes details of the person you care for, including name, address, contact details, who needs to be contacted in the event of an emergency, details of medication and ongoing treatment and so on. Should you need help, it is worth registering with a carer's emergency scheme in your local area, which will provide a skilled worker to look at your own personal situation and help you with emergency planning.

Though many carers are utterly committed and devoted to those they care for, it is important that you look after yourself too, so if you're feeling the strain, don't suffer in silence. Whether it's a night out with friends, a few days off to catch up with sleep, or a holiday in the UK or abroad, taking a break could make all the difference.

Are you a carer? Have you taken advantage of respite care to take a break? Leave your comments below...
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