Do you care for someone? If you do, you’re not alone.
There are around six million people in the UK classed as carers, which means that they are looking after a partner, family member or friend due to disability, illness or age.
These carers do not receive payment for the support they provide and often have to fit their role around working, studying and other commitments.
While this is hard enough, some people also do not let it be known that they are carers and so have nobody to share the responsibility with.
The roles and responsibilities of carers can vary hugely depending on the needs of the person they are looking after, so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to caring.
This means it is important that carers know where to get information and support to help them carry out their role.
One aspect that many carers can struggle with is finances, as their caring responsibilities may mean they have to cut back on paid employment or spend money providing care.
However, a variety of benefits are available for carers, depending on their circumstances.
There are three main types of caring benefits. These can either be claimed for by the carer or by the person they care for. Benefits are available to replace earnings, cover extra costs and to top up a low income.
Information on benefits can be found through the Citizen’s Advice Bureau at adviceguide.org.uk
It is important that carers look after their own health and wellbeing, as well as the person they are caring for.
This includes taking time out for yourself, away from your caring duties.
There are lots of different types of support available for carers, including help in the home and meal delivery services.
Everyone needs to have a break from time to time and carers are no different.
If possible, ask friends and family for help, or speak to your local authority about getting support.
Often carers feel guilty about taking time for themselves, but taking short breaks will help you cope with the demands of caring.
It’s important that you have time to relax by exercising or socialising.
Organisations such as Crossroads Care, Short Breaks Network and Vitalise, offer respite care schemes to allow carers to take a break from their responsibilities.
If you care for someone, you are eligible for a carer’s assessment, which is an opportunity to discuss your caring role and the support that you need.
These meetings are designed to make sure you are receiving adequate help, and will cover the topics of health, sleep, work and time for yourself.
This information can then be used to assess what help the authority can give to you, which will be written up as a care plan.
There may be a charge for some or all of this assistance, but the local authority will be able to explain this to you.
Caring for someone can be emotionally challenging. Talking to friends and family about how you are feeling is really important. There are also online forums
To help you improve your existing knowledge and learn some new skills, an interactive online programme called Caring with Confidence is available (caringwithconfidenceonline.co.uk).
This contains a series of courses that you can download and complete in your own time.
Among other things, this can help you better balance your commitments and manage your time, understand the care system and communicate more effectively with the person you care for.
More information is available through NHS Carers Direct (nhs.uk/carersdirect)