Whether you label yourself as a carer or not, if looking out for an elderly parent is affecting your life it’s worth knowing what support is available for you from the statutory authorities. There is help out there and organisations like Independent Age have some great ideas and information for help for carers.
Help for Carer’s assessment
A Carer’s Assessment is your chance to tell social services what would make YOUR life more manageable. And your local social services is bound by law to tell you of your right to have one. What’s more, the Carer’s Equal Opportunities Act 2004 requires your local social services to include in the assessment your wishes on continuing to work or train, plus leisure time. The Act also allows them to bring in other organisations, such as local health services, to assist in supporting you. If supporting your parent is having a profound effect on your own quality of life, request an assessment and make notes on all the areas you want to raise, for example:
- Are you struggling to find any/enough time for yourself?
- Is your own health being affected?
- How about the impacts on your relationships with others?
- Is the person you’re caring for getting enough help?
- Do you want to continue to work or train?
- Would other kinds of practical help assist you?
Don’t get excited – the rules about who is entitled to this weekly benefit are so rigid that few of us will qualify. In order to draw the princely sum of £62.10 a week you need to:
- 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.