Caring for carers
Caring for a disabled relative can be a rewarding experience but, without the right support, it can also be difficult. However, there are many resources available that can make an enormous difference to carers.
If you have any questions about caring, you can call the freephone Carers Direct helpline on 0808 802 0202. Lines are open from 9am to 8pm weekdays (except bank holidays) and 11am to 4pm on weekends.
The Princess Royal Trust has carers centres in most areas across the UK where you can find information, emotional support and training in skills such as first aid and stress reduction. It also runs many projects for young carers.
Whoever you care for, their entitlement to support from social services is arranged through a community care assessment. You can ask for your own needs to be included in this assessment, and you’re also entitled to a carer’s assessment under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000.
A carer’s assessment provides an opportunity to discuss your caring role and the support that you need. It’s not an assessment of how well you care for your relative but an evaluation of the support you’re entitled to. You’ll get the chance to discuss issues such as:
- Is your caring role affecting your health?
- Do you get enough sleep?
- Are you worried you may have to give up work?
- Do you get enough time to yourself?
You could be entitled to personal care assistance (this could mean having someone around to help give your relative a bath or shower), adaptations to your house, special equipment and a break from caring, when your relative will be looked after while you have a rest or a holiday.
To learn more see Carers Direct: carer’s assessments.
Short breaks from caring
We all need regular breaks from our daily responsibilities to keep us in good health, and carers are no different.
Sometimes, short breaks will involve someone else caring for your relative for a few hours a week, leaving you free to do your shopping or visit friends. At other times it could mean care is provided for a week or longer so you can go on holiday.
Your social services department can advise you on respite care and how to access it. Find contact details for your local authority in the directory of local carers services.
We all need a break from time to time. There’s no need to feel guilty about wanting a break or to think that you don’t need time off because your caring role is not a conventional job.
In the long-term, you’ll cope better with the demands of caring if you also take time for yourself.
Finances and employment
You may incur costs because of your caring role, and your income may be reduced because you are unable to work. Check your entitlement to welfare benefits, including Carer’s Allowance.
More than three million people juggle their caring responsibilities with employment. The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 and the Work and Families Act 2006 have given carers greater rights in relation to employment, education and leisure opportunities.
Carers UK campaigns and carries out research on employment issues. Its Make WORK work campaign is trying to get new laws to protect carers from discrimination, and a new advice and guidance service on caring and employment.
Since April 2007, carers of adults have had the right to request flexible working from their employer, who must consider the request seriously.
How you feel
It’s perfectly normal to have complex feelings about your caring role. You may also find it hard to cope with the life changes you experience when you start caring. You can get a lot of support by talking to other carers, for example through an online forum for carers.
Looking after your health is crucial. Eat well, exercise regularly and seek help from your GP if you feel stressed or depressed. Creative pursuits can help you express your feelings.
Watch the video below to see how two carers have been helped out by their local carers’ support group.