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The Importance of Respite – supporting Carers during Covid-19

Most of us recognise that we need some regular ‘down-time’ to recharge ourselves, whether it’s a weekly activity, your annual holiday, or Sunday night in front of the TV.

Carers who live with the person they care for often get less ‘down-time’ as they are always on-hand and thinking about their loved-one’s needs. Allowing carers to have time when their responsibility is alleviated, or respite, is vitally important, allowing them to re-charge, ready to do their emotionally and physically draining work again.

Whether caring for someone with a mental health condition, a learning disability, dementia, or other needs, the demands can be different but the need for a break remains the same.

Developments with Carers during the Covid pandemic

During lockdown, family carers suddenly had to become carers 24/7 when their usual support services couldn’t open. As the pandemic continued, the need for respite increased, and we did our best to open up our services as soon as we could.

When we couldn’t see people face to face we appreciated getting to know many of our members’ carers better, through regular phone and video calls. Sometimes giving an understanding ear, a piece of advice, or some more practical help, was the best way to help the people we all care for. We hope these relationships will continue to be beneficial even though the direct contact isn’t so regular now.

“It feels like I’ve lost a year of my life. For me, I now have some me time – before it was 24/7 and hard going. I can now be more relaxed, and there’s less tension about her too.”

“I’m almost more glad than she is that she’s back – I had to be there for her all the time when she was at home.”

Our carers groups have also continued through the pandemic, by running online.  In addition to the existing groups we started a new Dementia Carers Group where guest speakers start the conversation at each meeting. Whether online, in person, or both, offering the opportunity to share experiences and offer mutual support amongst a group of people who all understand your situation is incredibly valuable.

How Guideposts offers respite

While in our services we mostly concentrate on the people attending, we recognise that often the person who is not there, a carer, is benefitting just as much. Attending a service can also help the person who is cared for to be happy and in a good frame of mind when they return home. It can make the carer’s role that much easier.

Our friendship schemes in Hertfordshire, funded by Hertfordshire County Council Carers Breaks Fund, have also started getting back together.  At a recent Fit for Fun group, the ideas for days out were enthusiastically flying around the room – from canal trips to Christmas shopping to cinema trips. Making the activities work safely and economically is our challenge that we are working on!

New Services

Recognising how important respite is, over the summer we started some respite camping.  Members of GLADS (Guideposts Learning Activity Day Service) and Dreamcatchers Forest School both had opportunities to stay overnight at our Outdoor Wellbeing Hub and learn some camping skills, while their carers had a longer break at home.

September has also seen the launch of our new service in Gloucestershire, Befriending for Wellbeing. Befrienders can give a carer time to themselves by spending time one-to-one with the person they care for. Dementia-friendly and activities for adults with mild to moderate learning disabilities are all part of our range of skills.

“It’s helped me in that I get some time to myself, but more than that is to see the impact on him when he comes home – he’s smiling and happy, and if my son’s happy I’m happy.” 

If you our someone you know is in need of a respite break please get in touch so that we can find out how we can help.

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