Many people look after someone else but do not realise that they are carers.
If you look after a partner, relative or friend regularly to help them with their daily living because they are ill due to physical or mental health, or cannot manage without your support, you could be a carer, even if you don’t think of yourself as one.
Becoming a carer can happen gradually or very suddenly. It can last for years or days. Each caring role is different too, for example you might:
- Drop round each day to keep someone company or cook their meals
- Visit a friend or relative once a month, who lives far away, to see how they are doing
- Move in with someone to help them recover after a fall or major surgery
- Provide physical and/or emotional support
- Be on hand 24 hours a day to provide care
There are many ways that you might care for someone.
In the UK today, around 6.5 million people are recognised as carers, the equivalent of 1 in 10 adults. Did you know as many as one in five children and young people are young carers too?
New to caring
Its normal to become overwhelmed and confused. Taking one day at a time, here are 5 quick tips to get started:
1 Learn about the diagnosis of the person you are looking after. It will help you and them understand the illness and how to plan ahead
2 Talk together to understand their wishes. Conversations early on finance and healthcare are better prepared than in emergency.
3 Bring together the whole family involved to understand what is needed, including who you are caring for. It is important to share the role and ask each other for help/
4 Research what local services are available and what support is available. We discuss this in a little more detail later.
5 Asking for help and support. Local and online support groups are very useful with like-minded people so you do not need to feel alone.
Caring for an older adult can be exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating, lonely, and often thankless. It’s no wonder so many caregivers struggle with stress-related health conditions.
As a carer, it is important to remember your health and how to manage/reduce stress to help manage the worries and frustrations that come with caregiving.
Getting support for you as well as those you care for is just as important. You should start by asking your local council/adult social services for a needs assessment for who you are caring for and a carers assessment for you.
Did you know that there is help and support that’s available to everyone which is free. It is not means-tested and it does not matter what your income is.
This free care includes:
- some equipment and home adaptations
- help after coming home from hospital
- NHS continuing healthcare
- nursing in a care home (NHS-funded nursing care)
Short term care
After a stay in hospital or to prevent admission to hospital, you may be eligible for care and support at home for up to 6 weeks. This is known as intermediate care or Reablement. The idea is to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.
Your care package may include equipment or home adaptations to help you get around the house. It might be home help from a paid carer for tasks like cleaning, getting washed and dressed, using the toilet.
Making caring visible
Caring can be extremely complicated as well as emotionally and physically exhausting.
In addition to finding out with services, advice and support is available, building a better understanding amongst friends and family to avoid feeling isolated has real benefits.
Gentle words of encouragement from someone who understands you situation can be a lifeline. Raising awareness, building a support network to share the responsibilities and share experiences can also forge new friendships.
Whilst it might be human nature that we focus on what went wrong, what needs to improve, or knowing future challenges – don’t forget about all the amazing things you accomplish every day.