One in every eight adults in the UK is a carer. It’s something that will happen to most people at some point in their lives – in fact every year, over two million people become carers for the first time. Are you Prepared to Care?
At the start caring can be bewildering, confusing and demanding. All carers need some support and back-up. Caring without support from others can present serious risks to your health and well-being.
Carers Week is the ideal time to find out what support is available to carers in your local area and help you prepare to care. To find out what is happening in your area during Carers Week click here
Many carers turn to family and friends for support and to help get a break from caring. In lots of cases this works out well and caring is shared. There are also hundreds of carers groups and local organisations that support carers. Many of them will be getting involved in Carers Week so will be the ideal time to find out what is in your area. The Carers Week partners also offer a range of services for carers including carers’ centres, online discussion forums and advice and information service. To find out more about what they offer click here.
Most people need some sort of practical support to help with caring for a relative, partner or friend. This could be equipment to help you lift the person you care for, an alarm system for peace of mind, someone to look after the person you care for while you go out, or the opportunity to have a more substantial break where the person you care for goes into residential care or someone steps in to care for them for. By having a carer’s assessment you can work out with your local council what support you and the person you care for will need.
Carer’s assessments are a way of identifying your needs as a carer. They look at your role as a carer: how being a carer affects you, how much caring you can realistically do (while still allowing you to be involved in other activities outside caring), and any help you need. Find out about this from your local council or carer organisation.
The Carers Week partners can offer advice on accessing the support you need.
Looking After You
There is no doubt that without the right support caring can all too easily damage your health. You’ll need to find the balance between caring and looking after your own health needs. It is not an easy balance to find, but remember – the better your physical and emotional well-being, the better you will be able to cope with the demands of caring. If you only do three things make sure you:
- Tell your GP
- Watch your stress levels
- Look after your back
Working and Caring
Juggling the demands of caring with the responsibilities of a paid job is a tough call. People often feel pulled in two directions and as many as one in five people with significant caring responsibilities end up giving up work.
Those who fall out of work pay a heavy price – facing financial hardship and missing out on their own pension. So it pays to think carefully before giving up your job and explore all the options for support.
Telling work about your caring role is not always an easy step and you might feel it depends on whether your employer is likely to be supportive. Find out by asking your colleagues, personnel officer or union representative. There may be existing support that you are not aware of, or you may find that your employer is open to exploring ways to support you.
The Carers Week national partners can provide further advice and information about your rights.
Making the most of you money
For most people, caring hits your finances. Your income can take a dramatic drop through giving up work or reducing your working hours; you may face extra costs, such as heating, petrol and laundry, because you are looking after someone.
As a carer you should take the opportunity to have a benefits check to make sure you are claiming everything that you are entitled to. This will help you understand what benefits you or the person you care for might be able to claim and how to do so. This is particularly important if the person you care for is going to need care for a while.
What you or the person you care for may be entitled to:
- Benefits for the person you care for, like Disability Living Allowance, for people under the age of 65 or Attendance Allowance for those over 65.
- Carers’ benefits such as Carer’s Allowance if you are providing care, unpaid, for 35 hours or more for someone who receives the right level of disability benefit.
- Council tax discounts.
- Discounts on fuel bills if you receive certain benefits.
- Protection for your state pension.
- Extra tax credits if you need childcare for your disabled child and you work.
The Carers Week national partners can provide further advice and information and Carers UK and Age UK can give you a ‘benefits check’.