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Getting support and looking after yourself

If you’re a full-time carer or spend a lot of time caring for someone, it's important to make time for yourself too.

On this page you’ll find tips on looking after yourself and getting a break from caring.

How do I get a break from caring?

It’s important to take care of yourself and get a break if you need one - both for the sake of your own health and wellbeing and to give you the energy to carry on caring. Having a break doesn’t mean you are letting down the person you care for. It's sensible to have time to rest.

Respite care

Respite care is the term used for replacement services which enable you to take a break from caring. If you need a break from caring, your local council has a responsibility to arrange services that help you do this.

Respite care covers a variety of different things, such as:

  • someone to come and look after the person you care for on a regular basis
  • a holiday for you either with or without the person you care for
  • the person you care for attending an activity group or a day centre
  • a temporary stay in residential care for the person you care for

Respite care can give you a much-needed regular break and time to do things that you want or need to do, such as attend medical appointments, meet up with friends, attend classes or support groups, or take time to exercise.

In some areas respite care is provided as a result of your carer’s assessment, while in others it’s provided through a needs assessment for the person you look after. If your assessment or the assessment for the person you care for shows you need respite care, the local council should provide it.

You might be able to get financial support from the council to help you take a break, but respite services are means-tested so you or the person you care for may have to contribute towards the cost.

Getting a carer's assessment

To arrange respite care, contact your local council about getting a carer’s assessment.

What happens to my benefits if I take a break from caring?

If you have time off from caring, there are special rules to decide whether you’ll continue to receive Carer’s Allowance. The basic rule is that you can continue to receive your Carer’s Allowance for up to four weeks in any six-month period if you have a break from caring.

However, the rules are complicated, so you should get specialist advice from the Carer’s Allowance Unit.

If you’re receiving any other benefits which include extra amounts for caring, these may be affected if you have a break from caring.

Tips for looking after your health

It’s important to look after yourself so you have the energy to carry on caring. Make sure you do the following to stay healthy:

Speak to your GP

If you’re finding caring tiring or difficult, it can help to tell your GP you’re a carer and discuss the impact this is having on your own health. They will be able to offer you advice and support, and you may be entitled to additional health services such as a free annual flu jab if the person you care for has a serious or ongoing health problem. 

Sleep and eat well

Although it can be difficult, try to make sure that you eat healthily, stay active and get enough sleep.

Ask for help

Don’t feel like you need to do everything yourself. If you have relatives who live nearby, try to be honest with them if you need a hand or want to share the responsibility.

Find time for yourself

Time for yourself and to do something enjoyable or relaxing can be very helpful. It’s a good idea to take up a hobby or activity, such as going to an exercise group or an evening class, if you can.

Taking part in an activity you enjoy will give you the opportunity to do something for yourself – it’s important that you have your own interests and make time to pursue them where you can.

Your local library can provide information about social activities, events, education and courses.

But even if you don’t have the time for an activity or class, simply taking ten minutes to have a cup of tea or get some fresh air can really help.

What to do next

Find advice on finding classes and courses in your local area 

Where to get some more support

If you need some more support with being a carer, there is help available.

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
Monday - Friday 9am – 5pm 

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Last updated: Jan 16 2024

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