The need to take care to give care
Caring for someone you love is just what you do. Whatever it takes. 24/7 and 365 days a year for some. Often with no regard to the consequences for your own health and well-being.
A carer comes in many guises. It can be a husband, a wife, a daughter or son, a close friend or a kind neighbour.
If you are looking after someone you love, are you taking time to look after your own health and wellbeing? Or, if one of your parents is cared for by the other, would you be able to spot the signs that they may need some more support? And are you aware of the support they could be accessing?
How caring for someone can impact your life
Caring for an elderly parent, partner, relative or friend, depending on their frailty and needs, can be all-consuming and exhausting both emotionally and physically.
- A person’s financial situation and work life can be negatively impacted when they spend a lot of time caring for someone. Not to mention it being isolating.
- Constantly battling for another person to get the help and benefits they need can be stressful, so much so, that the carer doesn’t ask for help themselves.
- Regularly lifting someone or having to get up several times in the night will take its toll on a person’s health.
- Seeing someone you care for experience discomfort or distress is stressful in itself.
- Taking on a role as a carer, even if this has not been recognised as such, can affect relationships within the family.
Accessing support for a carer
Thankfully, help is available. Practical issues such as benefits are accessible to make life easier, but it’s equally important for you to consider other ways to make life better.
Within this guide we will tell you what resources are available to make the life of a carer easier and better.
If you or someone you know, are carrying out caring duties for at least 35 hours a week you may be able to receive carer’s allowance of £69.70 per week. It is available if the person being cared for receives benefits including Disability Living Allowance, or Personal Independent Payments (PIPS).
If eligible you will get this amount regardless of your relation to the person you are caring for or whether you live with them or not.
Read our guide to Carer’s Allowance here that includes information on eligibility and applications.
A carers assessment is carried out by a local authority and is their way to work out if you are eligible for carers support in your role as an unpaid carer.
If you’d benefit from the council’s support you should be able to have this assessment regardless of the hours you spend caring per week, your financial circumstances or whether the person being cared for receives any other form of support. This is about you and your needs.
During the assessment you’ll have the chance to explain how the caring impacts on your life. Your local authority will ask you questions like:
- Are you willing and able to continue providing the care?
- What is the impact on your health and wellbeing?
- What support do you need?
- Do you need more time to do the things you enjoy, like taking part in exercise?
- Is this negatively impacting your relationships?
How do I get a carer’s assessment?
You’ll need to request the assessment from the adult social services department at the local authority for the person being cared for – which might not be the same as yours. It can be completed online, over the phone or at a meeting.
This page on the Government’s website will help you allocate the right local authority.
Before the actual assessment takes place, you should receive an information pack to help prepare you in advance, enabling you to talk through any difficulties and get all your points across.
If I or my relative is eligible for support – what might this be?
If, after the assessment, the council decided that you need support as a carer, they will call to discuss how they plan to meet your needs. They could:
- Assist with practical help such as housework
- Provide respite to give you/the carer a break from caring duties
- Help with travel costs
- Help to get you back to doing things you enjoy including eg gym memberships
- Offer training to boost confidence
- Provide emotional support
The council will also consider what support they can give the person being carer for if this will help the carer – things like home adaptation, temporary respite care and meal delivery.
Once the support has been agreed between everyone, the council will create a written support plan. This support may or may not be charged for. To find out if you are eligible for financial help you will be given a financial assessment.
Getting help from your employer
Caring for someone as well as holding down a job can feel like you’re spinning a lot of plates at once. This can impact your health and wellbeing, plus you might not be as able to be as productive at work as you’d like, especially if you have been woken up throughout the night.
Currently there is little formalised help for carers of elderly parents and relatives, although it is at the discretion of the individual employer. A week’s paid carers leave is likely to come into force (at the time of writing).
Legally it is at the discretion of the employer as to how much paid or unpaid leave you can take. You are legally entitled to request such things as flexible working for example, but there is no obligation upon them to let you do this.
Our best advice is to speak with your manager and at least let them know about your situation. This alone may reduce some of the pressure. There are some ways that could really help:
- Possibility of working from home, even one day a week
- Temporary reduction in your working hours
- Consideration to a part-time role or job sharing
- Asking for flexitime to enable you to work around the care
Make an emergency plan
For own peace of mind, should care be needed urgently, draw up an emergency carer’s plan. Include things like a list of medication, and the contact details of who should be contacted in emergencies.
Talk to family and friends about the type of care you give, and if they are able to help. Informal arrangements work well in emergencies but for added reassurance discuss this at your carer’s assessment to find out what other assistance can be provided.
See if there is a carer’s emergency card scheme in your area, or a local carer’s organisation – so you can register yourself as the named carer.
Temporary replacement or respite care
Everyone needs some time off. Replacement care, also known as respite care, gives the carer a chance to recharge the batteries and have a rest. This could be a regular gym or fitness appointment or just time out with friends and family.
You can arrange a respite break – a short stay in a care home or by bringing in care to the home. This is a bit more complicated of course, but so important to try and arrange.
Domiciliary or live-in care
In some circumstances, you may find that the informal care is unsustainable – for everyone. If your relative is requiring a greater degree of care, and needing care more often, you may want to consider other care options. Options that can help include domiciliary (day) care and live-in care.
A domiciliary carer can visit your relative daily and assist with elements of their care that you identify needing support with.
Live-in care involves a full-time carer living in your relative’s home and being on-hand round-the-clock. You can create a care plan specific to your relative’s needs, and they can take over from you. Read our guide to 10 of the best live-in care providers.
Join local support groups
There are carers support groups all round the country, operating independently, or as part of charities such as Age UK or The Alzheimer’s Society. Joining a local group is a great way of getting out of the house, spending time in sympathetic company, and finding other local solutions by word of mouth.
Keeping in touch - it's good to talk
Whether your Dad is caring for your Mum or you’re caring for your Dad, oftentimes it becomes the norm, and others forget to ask about the one doing the caring. It also becomes all too easy to only talk about the care.
As the old saying goes, it’s good to talk – so keep in contact and keep in touch and actually talk. About more than the care.