Respite Care

Respite care provides a much needed break from the responsibilities and demands of caring for someone with dementia. It enables families and carers to have a rest, go out, attend to business or go on a holiday. Many people find that a regular break means that they can recharge and avoid burn out. It also gives a person with dementia an opportunity to socialise and meet other people.

Health & Social Services may help to fund different types of respite care to help families and carers. If you want to know more about what respite care is available, contact the Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or Social Worker at the Memory Clinic, Overdale, Westmount  - phone 01534 444830.

For privately funded respite care, some care homes will provide respite care for people with dementia subject to an assessment to ensure the home is adequately equipped for the person with dementia's needs.

Dealing with any difficulties

Occasionally difficulties can arise, particularly when using respite for the first time. Some families and carers find that the person with dementia does not wish to leave them or leave home for a break, or that they want to come home whilst using respite. Other families and carers are concerned about uncharacteristic behaviour that occurs when using respite or the effects on a person with dementia after respite.

These problems are not unusual and should not stop you taking a break. There are many ways to manage these difficulties so that you and the person you are caring for can make the most of respite care.

Planning ahead

Many people with dementia find new environments and new people unsettling. Because of this it is important to plan for a positive respite experience. Many people have found it useful to use regular respite early in the care situation, so that everyone can get used to sharing dementia care. You will know best how far in advance to tell the person about respite. Reassure the person if they are anxious and make sure that they know that you are feeling positive about the break, even if you're feeling a little anxious yourself.

Start with small breaks

Many families and carers find it best to start with small breaks and build up to longer ones. This enables both of you to gain some confidence about the experience. It may be useful to have an initial time with the person with dementia and the worker prior to the break.

Communication with respite staff

It can be helpful to think about respite as a partnership between yourself and the respite provider, working together to make the most of respite. When planning to use respite discuss with the staff the type of respite that is available and what will work best for you and the person with dementia.

To make respite work for all of you:-

• Communicate your needs and the needs of the person with dementia clearly and openly

• Give important information to the respite worker or facility. Knowing the individual likes and dislikes of the person will help staff care more easily, and will help minimise any changes. Share historical information about their life. Some people find that sending a life story photo album or board works well as an aid to conversation

• Explain what is important to you and the person with dementia about the care they receive

Talking to others

You might get some practical ideas by talking to other people in a similar situation about ways they've managed to make respite a positive experience.

Keep trying

Respite is an adjustment for families and carers and the person with dementia and it can take time to build a sense of trust. If you're not happy with the respite experience - try again. The person you are caring for may well get used to different things over time. Perhaps planning to do something differently next time will improve the experience. Remember that regular breaks are important for all families, carers and people with dementia. You will almost certainly enhance your ability to carry out the demanding role of caring for someone with dementia - so keep trying.

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Did you know?

The number of people with dementia is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that there are currently 1,400 people in Jersey living with dementia, many of whom have not as yet obtained a formal diagnosis; this number is set to double over the next 25 years.