Caring for an ill, elderly or disabled relative or friend can be a rewarding experience. But without the right support, it can also be a difficult one.
If you're a carer, there are many organisations that can provide practical and financial help, as well as short breaks from caring. You can find information and advice in Care and support.
The two main charities that support carers are Carers UK and Carers Trust. They help carers in all aspects of their work, from practical to emotional matters.
The Carers Trust has 144 carers' centres across the UK where you can find information, emotional support and training in skills such as first aid and stress reduction.
The person you care for will receive a community care assessment to establish how much support from social services they're entitled to.
You can ask for your own needs to be included in this, and you're also legally entitled to a carer's assessment.
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 perform your role, but an evaluation of the support that 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 that 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 your relative have a bath or shower. You may also be entitled to adaptations to your house, special equipment, and a break from your caring role, during which your relative will be looked after.
Find out how to apply for a carer's assessment.
Short breaks from caring
We all need regular breaks to recharge our batteries, 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 be care for a week or longer so that you can go on holiday.
Your social services department can advise you on what respite care it can provide and how to access it.
We all need a break from time to time. Don't feel guilty about wanting a break or think that you don't need one. In the long-term, you'll cope better with the demands of caring if you take time off for yourself.
You can learn more by reading the Care and support pages on getting time off.
Finances and employment
You may incur costs because of your caring role, and your income through employment may be reduced. Check your entitlement to carers' benefits, as well as other financial support for carers and help with covering the costs of the care of the person you look after.
More than three million people combine caring responsibilities with employment. Recent laws have given carers more rights in employment, education and leisure opportunities.
Carers of adults now have the right to request flexible working from their employer, who must consider the request seriously.
How you feel about your caring role
It's normal to have complex feelings about your caring role.
You may find it difficult to cope with the changes in your life when you start caring. You can get much-needed mutual support by talking to other carers. Carers UK and the Carers Trust have safe online forums for carers.
Looking after your health is crucial. Eat well, exercise regularly and talk to your GP if you feel stressed or depressed. Participating in creative activities can also be a very good way of releasing your feelings.
For a comprehensive overview of caring, see Care and support.
Article provided by NHS Choices