Choosing a home for respite care
Just days after Christmas we received a message from a local care home offering “3 weeks for 2” respite care. A bit startling, but actually not at all a bad idea.
After the pleasures and stresses of any festive season, carergivers may well be feeling in need of a break to recover their energies. And the cared-for could be feeling the same way. A short respite in a care home could benefit everyone.
Having a breather isn’t the only purpose of respite care. For many older people who have been in hospital, respite care provides a useful halfway house while they continue to recuperate. It’s an opportunity for them, their family and supporting services to see how well they are going to recover, and what the next steps should be.
Can they return home and carry on as before? Will they need the support of carers at home in future? Or will it be time to move into a care or nursing home on a full-time basis?
We have just been in this situation for an older relative, and offer a few pointers from our own experience.
Comparison sites are complementary to visits, not a replacement.
When you’re searching for a respite home, there are a number of websites offering descriptions and reviews. These include that of the Care Quality Commission, which is the body that officially visits and grades care homes according to a specific set of criteria. You can find these in the When They Get Older directory.
These are a good place to start, but we found it invaluable to visit the homes as well. For us, the home that looked the best on paper turned out to be the one that greeted us with the distinctive odour of urine as soon as we walked in the door. The home that we nearly dismissed as being too small and probably not so good because it cost less actually turned out to be the most welcoming and homely. So I would say, do a virtual and a physical search if you possibly can.
Respite care isn’t necessarily the long-term answer.
Even if you do decide that a relative needs to stay in a care home for the long term, the home that offers respite care may not be the end solution.
It does give you all a chance to experience what long-term care is, and whether the home you’ve chosen for respite actually works for your relative.
However, that particular home may not actually have a place for your relative in the long term. It may not fit the budget. Or you may decide it makes more sense for your relative to move closer to where you live, so that they can receive more regular visits (and you can more easily keep an eye on their health and care yourself).
Prices may change.
Many homes will quote different prices for respite care and long-term care. It’s important to check exactly what the cost will be to your relative. And if your relative doesn’t have the wherewithal to pay for care themselves, your choices are likely to be much more limited by the places approved by the authority that is funding the care.
Think about practical short-term issues.
If your relative is taking a short break or recovering from physical ill health, they are likely to be able to continue to control their financial lives – paying rent and bills, managing their bank accounts, dealing with insurance etc from their care home. All you may need to do is make sure they get their post in good time.
If the challenge is more debilitating, you may need to help more. If your relative has set up a power of attorney, this may be the time to action it. If they have been assessed as having capacity to make their own decisions, they will probably need to agree to your help. If the assessment has found them unable to make decisions, you may have to take over their affairs in their best interests.
What we have found is that our relative has been assessed in the short term as not having capacity, but as she recovers from her health crisis, her capacity may improve. Given that she has a diagnosis of dementia, we don’t know how likely this is, but it makes for a period of uncertainty. We also know from experience that she may agree to our help one day, and then change her mind the next.
Remember whose life this is.
As people get older and become more vulnerable, the ways in which they can control their lives shrink.
Having a say in where they live is one of the last big decisions they may make. So even if it’s obvious to everyone else what the ‘right’ solution is, it’s really important to make sure that your relative feels involved in the process.
It’s a delicate balancing act. Many will be adamant that they want to return home later whatever – and who can blame them for that? Your relative needs to be ready to move on to the next stage, even if it’s just for a few weeks, or there’s a danger that they will feel people are acting against their best interests when that’s not the case at all.
Looking forward is no bad thing.
While you’re looking at homes for respite, there’s no harm in considering whether they would make a good long-term residence if your relative doesn’t return to independent living. So it’s worth taking a look at our other articles on choosing a care home for criteria to keep in mind.
- An insider’s guide to asking the right questions when choosing a care home
- 10 questions to ask when looking a care home
- More questions to ask care homes before you make your choice