Planning a short break

Breaks from caring are as unique and individual as the carer who needs one. Getting a break that fits your needs will bring the best results for everyone, but sometimes it can be hard to pin down what kind of break you want, and how to get it.

This section is designed to help you think about what matters to you. 

Time to live

"We weren’t expecting amazing results from two days, but it did have a big impact. All the things that brought the stress and anxiety were basically lessened by us being rested."
  • One short break or a regular break?

    Think about whether you'd prefer one break such as a few nights away, or if a regular break such as an hour a week for an activity or to meet a friend would work better for you.

  • When would you like to take a break?

    Is there a specific date you have in mind? Or dates that you need to avoid?

  • How long and how often?

    If a regular break would work best for you, how often would this to be? It might be a short period of time, like an hour or two every week, or you might prefer longer.

  • Home or away?

    Would you prefer to stay at home for a break, or would a better break for you be one that's away from home. Think about whether you'd like an overnight away or if that isn't something you'd want to do.

  • What would you like to get out of a break?

    This will be different for everyone. It might be a chance to try something new or keep up with a hobby or interest. For other people a break can be a chance to see new places, or just to chill out at home.

Services explained

There is a wide array of short break services. This section explains some of the more common types.

These breaks are based in accommodation which is used only for respite or short breaks. This might be purpose-built or adapted accommodation, or it could be community houses or flats. Many providers will also be able to offer specialist care and support.

Some care homes may have a small number of places set aside specifically to offer short respite breaks. Rather than a 'spare bed' these breaks are provided with a planned programme of activities for short-term guests to suit individual needs and interests. 

Breaks in the home of another family are sometimes referred to "Shared Lives" or "family-based placements". Families or individuals offering this type of support are carefully recruited and registered - normally by their local authority or by a voluntary sector organisation. They welcome supported people into their homes overnight or for longer periods of time giving the unpaid carer a break. 

This includes individual support provided in the home of the cared-for person for periods of a few hours or overnight. The purpose may be to provide support while the carer is away, or to support the carer in other ways, e.g. by enabling the carer to have an undisturbed night's sleep. 

These opportunities might focus on a particular activity (e.g. sports clubs, leisure activities) and may be based in a community building. These generally take place over a few hours, on a regular basis, or they may be planned for particular periods of time such as school holidays.

People are usually supported by trained staff so that they can enjoy these activities.

These include opportunities for people to have a break together, or independently, with support in place if needed. 

These breaks include those provided by agencies specialising in breaks for people with particular support needs. For example, dementia-friendly holidays. 

Befriending normally involves a volunteer assisting someone with care and support needs to have access to activities, for example going to the cinema, meeting friends, shopping, swimming and other such leisure pursuits.  Befriending can be on a one-to-one basis or as part of a group. 

Day care is typically based in a community building and provided by a local authority or voluntary organisation. The degree of flexibility varies; most are characterised by fixed opening hours on particular days; some offer a drop-in service whereby people can attend for part of the day only.

Day care is not generally provided for short breaks or respite purposes but services which offer more flexible arrangements, designed around the needs of both the cared-for person and the carer, can achieve this purpose.

This type of break is for people who need medical supervision because of complex or intense healthcare needs.  Many hospice facilities are designed in such a way to create a more homely environment with guest bedrooms, lounges and activity programmes. 

With the development of Self-directed Support and Direct Payments, more carers are finding creative ways to take a break. 

You can see many examples of the different ways people take breaks on our short break stories

Finding your next short break

Our short break directory can help you find the right break for you

Short break providers

Funding your break

More information on how to fund your break

Funding your short break