If one of your parents cares for the other then there’s a good chance that they will not think of themselves as the carer at all – but of course as the husband or wife – probably of many years standing.
Likewise if you provide support and care for your parents, you may well not give yourself the label of carer either. It is after all what families do, so it can be particularly hard to get help for the person doing the caring (that means you!).
Caring for an elderly parent, partner or relative, depending on their frailty, can be all-consuming, exhausting emotionally and physically. We need to care for the carer as much as the one needing the care.
It can be so difficult to accept help if you are the primary carer as it may feel like admitting failure, or a change in circumstances. But, there is help available, and resources you can put in place to make life easier and better.
A Carer’s Assessment is carried out by the local authority. It is the chance to discuss what support would make life more manageable for the carer. It will look at the impact of caring every day and whether the carer is able or willing to continue caring.
Anyone who seems to need support should be able to have an assessment by the local authority – this is regardless of the amount of time spent caring, financial circumstances or the level of need for support.
A carer can be assessed even if the person being cared for has not been assessed themselves or if it has been decided they are not eligible for support.
If the care is shared, then one or other or both carers can be assessed; the carer does not need to live with the person they care for or be caring full-time. You may be juggling work and care which is having a significant impact on your life.
How to get a carer’s assessment
An assessment can be requested from the local authority – the adult social care department. It can be carried out online, on the phone or at a meeting.
It is worth considering the impact caring is having in advance, and you might consider the following:
- Are you or the carer struggling to find any/enough time for yourselves?
- Is your own/the carers health being affected?
- How about the impacts on relationships with others?
- Is the person being cared for getting enough help?
- Do you/the carer want to continue to work or train?
- Would other kinds of practical assistance might help?
There are eligibility criteria set for applicants to receive support. These are set nationally but will be decided locally. In order to meet the eligibility criteria there will need to be a significant impact on the carers wellbeing – and there are 3 questions that will need to be answered
- Are the needs the result of providing necessary care?
- Does the caring role have an effect on the carer?
- Is there a significant impact on the carers wellbeing?
If the answer to all 3 is yes, then the carer has eligible needs.
What help might be available?
If the council decided that there is a need, then they are duty-bound to meet the need and must draw up a plan. It may be agreed that the best way to help the carer is to provide services directly to them, to the person being cared for, or a combination of both.
This support may or may not be charged for, and the carer may or may not be eligible for funding support – but if it is charged for then the local authority must also carry out a financial assessment to work out eligibility or not for funding support.
Support available to the carer might include help with transport costs, technology support, help with housework or gardening or help to relieve stress and promote wellbeing such as a gym membership.
Suport for the person being cared for may include home adaptations; temporary respite care, assistance with travel; a place at a day centre, meal delivery or assistance with travel.
The rules about who is entitled to this weekly benefit are rigid. The 2019/20 allowance is £66.15 per week.
- Be over 16 years old
- Look after someone for at least 35 hours a week
- The person you’re looking after must receive some kind of qualifying benefit themselves
- If you’re working you must not be earning more than £102 a week
- And you can’t be in full-time education.
More details on all of these and other support services can be found on the excellent Carers UK website.
And if you’ve got tips for others on how to handle an assessment: what to ask for and what to consider, please share with others in the forum.
If you already get £62.10 or more a week from your State Pension (or certain other benefits), then you will not be paid Carer’s Allowance.
This is because State Pension and Carer’s Allowance are ‘overlapping benefits’ and you can only claim one at a time. Instead, you’ll be awarded an ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance.
The good news is this means you’re eligible for extra money paid with any means-tested benefits you claim, such as Pension Credit or Housing Benefit. And if you don’t currently receive any means-tested benefits, you may find you’re now eligible because of this underlying entitlement.
3. Make an emergency plan
Draw up an emergency carer’s plan to list the contact details of the person you care for and who to contact in an emergency, as well as any medication or treatment the person you care for receives.
You may be able to arrange emergency help from friends and family but it can be reassuring to involve your local council in case your informal arrangements fall through. Ask about this during your carer’s assessment.
In some areas, there are carer’s emergency card schemes. After registering with the scheme, you’ll receive a card identifying you as a carer.
In an emergency, someone can call the number on the card and an operator will put your emergency plan into place. Ask your local council or a local carer’s organisation if there is a scheme in your area.
4. Arrange replacement or respite care
When you’re caring for someone, you need to remember to take care of yourself too. Having a break is a sensible thing to do – we all need time off for ourselves.
Replacement care, also known as respite care, gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, catch up with friends, pursue your hobbies or simply have a rest from being a carer.
This may be offered to you by social services following your carer’s assessment. It could mean a day centre one or two days a week for the person you care for, someone coming to your home to look after the person while you have a break, or a longer period of care in a care home so you can have a holiday. Read our guidance on respite care.
5. Join local support groups
Carers groups can be a good way to share your experiences and get emotional support from other carers who know what you’re going through.
Find your local carers centre by contacting Carers UK or Carers Trust. You can also join the conversation in Age Space Forum, where you can share what’s on your mind and find others going through similar situations.