Breaks Away from Home
While you might be able to grab short breaks ‘on the run’, longer breaks take what
may sometimes seem like military-level planning. You may need to dig deep and
console yourself with the fact that it will be worth it in the end.
- Prepare a respite plan
1. Work out what you need
Get clear about your needs and those of the person you support. Think about duration, frequency and location. Do you need regular free time, the occasional longer break away, or a combination of both? What type of respite would work best? There are four typical options:
- Informal help from friends or family/whānau
- Formal care in your own home
- ‘Out of home’ respite at another family member’s or relief carer’s home or at a facility, and
- Community settings or day care, after school, activity-based respite, or holiday recreation programmes.
Think about what skills are required and consider the preferences and abilities of the person you support. Respite needs to be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience for them, too. Explore options together if possible.
- What type of environment or relief care would they prefer?
- What about opportunities to widen social networks and have stimulating or fun experiences?
The needs and wishes of children, especially, may change over time.
2. Find out what’s available
Discover what respite support options are available in your community, including sources of funding. Contacting your local Needs Assessment Service Coordination Service (NASC). NASC is the first step to accessing government-funded services, including respite and the Carer Support Subsidy.
- Include the person you support in the decision-making process as much as you can. Make sure they have the opportunity to meet any potential relief carers or services beforehand.
- Visit several potential facilities if you’re lucky enough to have a range of choices for out-of home respite.
- Observe how staff interact with residents.
- Ask as many questions as you need to.
- Discuss your desired goals and outcomes for respite.
- Be specific about any special needs/requirements.
- Follow your instincts.
When arranging in-home relief care, be specific about tasks, skills and schedules. Observe how the potential relief carer(s) interacts with the person you support and follow your instincts as to whether they’re a good fit. You should ensure the relief carer(s) has a current background check if the person being supported is vulnerable or non-verbal.
3. Make bookings and put together a back-up plan
Just do it! It can be hard to coordinate the availability of relief care with time off work and making travel arrangements, so strike while the iron is hot any time it appears these things will come into alignment.
Make sure you have a plan in place if something comes up, such as relief care being unavailable at short notice. An unplanned event shouldn’t stop you from taking the breaks you need.
Keep a list of alternative respite care providers and resources. Potential helpers include family, friends, other carers, faith-based groups, and support groups. Ask yourself, who could hold the fort for a few hours if something crops up? You don’t want to have to rush home if something doesn’t quite go according to plan.
If the person you support has been allocated respite and/or the Carer Support Subsidy, don’t ‘hoard’ this time for breaks in case there is an emergency. Plan regular breaks using your Subsidy and respite allocations; should there be an emergency, you will be able to ask for extra help.
4. Get organised
Prepare the person you support as much as you can before breaks, especially if it’s with a new person or at a new place. Talk about the arrangements together. Try to be calm and cheerful, and be understanding if they are nervous or reluctant. It may be difficult for them to adjust to receiving help from a ‘stranger’. It can take time to feel comfortable and build relationships, so give lots of reassurance and encouragement. Other family members, such as siblings, may need reassurance about the arrangement, too.
Discuss in advance with the relief carer or service any support needs, preferences, or dislikes if the person you support cannot communicate these easily. Provide a written record of routines, medications, dietary requirements, special equipment – anything you can think of to ensure continuity of support. Include suggestions for handling any difficult behaviours. If a relief carer is coming to your home, you’ll also need to include information about running the house – where things are and how things work – as well as a list of emergency contacts.
Save and store the information on your computer if you have one so it’s easy to add things as you think of them and make changes from one period of respite to another. Or keep a notebook handy!
5. Enjoy your respite breaks
The pleasure of anticipation can extend the positive effects of even a relatively short period of respite. You might put something on the fridge to remind you of the break you’ve planned, so you and the person you support can both look forward to this time for relaxing and new experiences.
You may find it very hard to leave the person you support. Do your best to stay calm, and try not to draw out your goodbyes. Partings may be difficult for both of you for awhile; try to think about the benefits for you and for them.
While you’re away, make sure you really switch off and recharge. If the person you support goes to a day centre, after school programme, or other service, at first you may want to visit occasionally so you know what goes on and can talk to staff. But try to fit in with them and not interfere unless you have concerns.
Any substitute helper has to create their own relationships with clients, and this will be more difficult if you’re there. It will also be easier for the person you support to adjust to new people or surroundings if you leave them to get on with it. Remember, your respite supporter has your contact details if needed.
6. Review how it went
Once you return from your break, review how things have gone and finetune your plan for next time if necessary. Involve the person you support in the review process if this is possible. Talk to them about the help they received and whether they are content and satisfied. Deal with any worries or problems together.
Remember that others provide help differently from you. This doesn’t mean their way is wrong. You need to keep an eye on the help provided, but try to be open-minded and accept other ways of doing things.
If, having given an arrangement a fair trial, it turns out to be unsuitable, bring it to an end. Look for an alternative that might work better. Try not to feel defeated and give up. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you no longer need it, but that you need something different.
- Get away for less
Taking a holiday can be doubly challenging when money is tight. You may have to be creative!If you’re quick with a computer mouse, you might be able to get cheap airfares on sites like Air New Zealand’s Grabaseat. Talk to your local travel agent, too. Tell them what kind of holiday you’d like and your budget; they’ll set up a profile for you and email you when specials are available. You can update your profile and switch email preferences on and off so your email inbox doesn’t get swamped.
Another option is to look at holiday destinations within easy driving distance. Is there somewhere close by you’ve always meant to explore? We live in a beautiful country with a varied landscape where a couple of hours’ drive or bus ride can take us to a completely different world.
Accommodation is the biggest cost when travelling. You’re likely to find cheaper accommodation if you plan to visit any of our top tourist spots during the ‘shoulder’ seasons of late autumn and late spring.
Self-catering options where you can make simple meals will help keep overall costs down. Keep an eye out for deals on sites like GrabOne and Wotif. IHC’s Respitality Programme is a creative option: you get to enjoy a free night away at a hotel while IHC’s IDEA Services staff care for the person you support. The programme is available to anyone supporting family members of any age with an intellectual disability. There are participating hotels throughout the country.
There are other options, too. A number of large employers – ANZ, Air New Zealand, Spark, PSA, New Zealand Post and others – have staff holiday homes, many in some of the country’s most popular holiday spots. The rents are very reasonable. You may have a family member who has access to one of these programmes.
If you know of a great holiday option other carers might appreciate, please share it with us, firstname.lastname@example.org