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Living with a terminal illness and looking for support? Our Support Line team are here to help. 

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Respite breaks for carers and taking time out

Everyone needs time to themselves. When you’re caring for someone who is terminally ill, taking time out is important for your health and wellbeing. If you’re unable to leave your relative or friend alone, there is alternative care available.

What is a respite break?

A respite break simply means taking a break from caring. What sort of break, and for how long, is up to you. You may feel you need to have short regular breaks to enjoy a hobby, get some exercise, take care of your own needs or catch up on some sleep. Alternatively, you may need a longer break or holiday.

Respite care can either mean someone else looking after your friend or relative in their home, or the person who is ill spending time in residential care, a nursing home, or a hospice.

How do I get a respite break?

Sometimes family and friends may be able to help share your caring responsibilities. If you don’t have a personal support network, there are other options.

If you’re spending a lot of time caring for someone on a regular basis, you have the right to a carer’s assessment. This covers your own needs, including your need for a break and time to yourself. Once you have had the assessment, the local council (local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland) must consider providing respite care (although they may charge you for this).

Carers UK  , NHS Choices   and the Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland   website have more information about the different kinds of respite care that social services can offer.

There are also other organisations which can help. Contact your local carers centre   for information about respite care available in your area. Marie Curie Nurses can also provide overnight care for terminally ill people, enabling carers to get some sleep.

As my Mum was so aware of the caring we were doing, and worried about overburdening us, knowing we were rested helped her feel better and more relaxed. 
Christine, carer/relative

External websites

Carers UK   (see the homepage for links to nation-specific information) – Taking a break

NHS Choices   – Carer’s Assessments

NHS Choices   – Time off

Carers Trust   – Find your local service

NI Direct   – Caring and support services

Health and social care in Northern Ireland website  

Care Info Scotland  

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