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Ask the expert: taking a break

No matter how complex your emotions or your circumstances, the Carers UK Adviceline is here to give you the information we need.

Each month we take a question from the Carers UK Forum and get one of our advisers to provide an expert response. This month Jen from the Carers UK Adviceline explores the different options for taking a break, and we share your experiences of the benefits and challenges.

You asked:Concerned comic

My mum has arthritis and cannot walk more than a few steps. She used to live alone and kept having falls, so me and my husband sold our house and bought a place in the country suitable for all our needs. This was a year ago.

My husband works away and is only home at weekends. My mum has always had a quick temper and is prone to sulking. Life is becoming unbearable. I have dogs but can’t even get out to walk them. I don’t have any friends and I’m not in the best health myself. Help! What are my options?


Our Adviser says:

AdvicelineIt sounds like it might be a good idea for you to try and take a break from your caring role – whether that’s in the form of a few hours (so you can walk your dogs), a few days or a few weeks for a holiday.

If you do want a break you might want to get replacement care for your mother. This is called respite care. You might be able to get some help with this through the adult social services department of your council, or you might want to find respite care yourselves.

To try and get help through the council you could get a carer’s assessment, which would look at your caring role. If the council assess you taking a break as an ‘eligible need’ they must meet this need. The most common way in which the council would meet this need would be to provide respite care for your mother. They would want to carry out a needs assessment for your mother, to work out whether she needs respite care, and if so what type (for example, having care workers come into your home, or your mum going into temporary residential care).

If the council do assess your mother as needing respite care they can either arrange support themselves or provide direct payments so your mother can choose what support to purchase. The council would carry out a financial assessment on your mother to see how the respite care will be paid for. Depending on her income and capital, the council might pay the full amount, or she might have to contribute or pay the full amount.

To find respite care yourselves (which your mother could either pay for via direct payments or which she could pay for herself) you could try the following:

  • search for care providers (and their ratings) on the Care Quality Commission website
  • the local council or a local advice centre (such as a local Age UK, carers centre or disability charity) might have a list of local care providers.

If you were going to take a break then you could explore the following options for help with the cost:

  • Taking a breakif help with the cost of a break is an ‘eligible need’ in your carer’s assessment then the council must meet this need
  • there are sometimes local carers’ grants which could be accessed through the council (usually via a carer’s assessment) or through a local carers’ centre
  • there are sometimes more general grants (ie not specific to your local area) – see our Taking a Break factsheet for a list or organisations.
  • Turn 2 Us has a database of organisations that offer grants

To find out more download our fully updated Taking a break factsheet or to request a free printed copy contact the Carers UK Adviceline on 0808 808 7777 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Good luck and take care of yourself.

Your experiences

My experience of respite care is an emotional up and down.

My mother has dementia. She used to have regular and planned respite at a unit that also provided specialist daycare, giving me a much-needed breather. But it had the downside of her being more unsettled when she came home. Now she’s not mobile, finding consistent, good-quality care is hit and miss.

I need respite to give myself a chance to recharge, but it is more stressful than it used to be and I fret about the standard of care that mum receives.
I cared for mum for eight years.

I never took a break - mainly due to mum refusing to go into respite care, but also because I didn’t think anyone else would be able to give her the care she needed. I look back now and wish I had been stronger to let others help care for mum. After years of hardly any sleep and no break, I seem to be constantly poorly and my immune system is at a low.

I would do it all again if I had to, but if you are a carer and you get the chance of a break please do take it - you’ll be more energised to carry on.

  • Carers UK Adviceline: You can talk to us five days a week, no matter where you are in the UK or how complex your query is. We do benefits checks and advise on financial and practical matters related to caring.
    0808 808 7777 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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