Emma Hammett A qualified nurse, author and first aid trainer with over 30 years’ healthcare and teaching experience Unpaid carers are a lifeline to those they look after and are of huge benefit to society as a whole. A staggering 7 million of us in the UK are carers and so the relief to NHS
carers are a lifeline to those they look after and are of huge benefit to
society as a whole. A staggering 7 million of us in the UK are carers and so
the relief to NHS services is truly incalculable.
carers and enabling them to care effectively and lovingly is vital. Our home
carers are our forgotten workforce and the mainstay of many people in society.
It is incredibly important to ensure that our carers are themselves cared for;
their wellbeing is fundamental to ensuring they can continue to sustain the
lives of some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
Who counts as a carer?
may well be a carer without realising it.
a carer does not necessarily mean you are caring for someone twenty-four hours
a day. You may be doing less hours but still being of critical support to
following criteria can help you recognise your role. According to the NHS, if
you perform any of the following, you are technically a carer:
looking after someone because they are ill, elderly or disabled.
helping someone with washing, dressing or taking medicines.
with shopping, cleaning and laundry.
someone to pay bills and organise finances.
emotional support by sitting together to keep them company or watching over
someone if they can’t be left alone.
carers are often under-recognised and suffer many hardships, often including loneliness,
is worrying for the health of the seven million of us who care. On top of this,
there is also a dreadful knock on effect harming the vulnerable people they
care for. Ill physical or mental wellbeing in a carer can – understandably – lead
to neglect of the person requiring care. In extreme cases, elder or other types
of abuse occur.
It is clear that carers
require far more help than they currently receive. The facts are stark:
of carers are entitled to financial state support yet don’t claim it.
of carers suffer mental ill health due to their caring role.
to Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert, 100,000 people are being over-charged
council tax and could claim 100 of 25% of their payments back. Visit https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/reclaim/severe-mental-impairment-dementia-council-tax-rebate/ if you
think this could apply to you. Councils are poorly informing people of their
benefits – an MSE study found 31% of councils giving out the wrong information.
[For more information about the difficulties
of caring, and to read a personal care story, do have a read of our article Challenges facing carers.]
Key strains for carers and
ways to help:
- Physical respite (taking
- Financial support
(governmental and charitable).
- Emotional support (helping
the carer’s wellbeing).
- Charities that can help.
not underestimate the restorative power of taking a break from your caring
duties especially – but not only – if you are living with the cared-for person.
65% of older carers (aged
60-94) have long-term health problems or disabilities themselves. Scarily, one third of
these carers say they have actually cancelled treatment or an operation
themselves because of their caring responsibilities.
allows the carer to take much-needed time off. It can prevent exhaustion and illness in the
carer. It can be hard for a carer to do this. But it’s crucial that carers look
after their own health too. This means occasionally prioritising your own needs
and trying to avoid stress or guilt whilst doing so.
time to oneself and indeed, time off for holidays, are not luxuries but an
essential component of the working year.
respite could be for a few hours or even a few days. The cared-for person could
have a professional carer with them during your absence, or they might enter a
care home temporarily.
possibilities to consider:
- Homecare with a paid
- Short stay in a care
- Friends or family
covering you for a short time.
- A respite holiday.
- ‘Sitting’ services.
NHS Advice on receiving
council-aided carer respite
assessment will then need to be conducted on your own needs as a carer, as well
as the person you’re looking after.
local council may fund your respite, but even if you are willing to pay
yourself, the assessment is useful in determining what type of care is best
needed for your cared-for person. To request an assessment, contact your local
council or carers’ centre.
request an assessment , you should contact your local authority – you can find
yours using this website link To arrange one, contact your local services; you
can find these here. https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Local-Authority-Adult-Social-Care/LocationSearch/1918
assessment is free for anyone over 18.
assessment will involve someone from the council (or associated organisation)
asking you questions about how you’re coping with caring (physically, mentally)
and how caring has affected your work, free time and relationships. This
assessment is mostly done face to face and lasts around an hour.
To prepare for the
assessment, bring your:
- NHS number.
- GP name, address & phone number.
- Contact details of anyone coming with you.
- The details of the person you care for
(including NHS number if possible).
- Email address.
During, give as much detail as possible about how your life has
been affected by caring. The NHS has provisions to help and can do so best if
it has all the information possible.
A carer’s assessment could result
in a recommendation of the following:
carer to take a break from caring whilst someone else fills in.
help with taxi fares if the carer doesn’t drive.
gardening and housework help.
about benefits for carers.
the carer with links to local support groups.
Other respite options
Day care centres:
are often run by councils, or local charities. These offer people a chance to
socialise and enjoy some activities such as teas or arts and crafts. It can
give the carer a break for a day.
which offer these services include Age UK
and Contact the Elderly.
Paying for care
carers are staff who are either live-in carers (providing 24 hour support) or
regular carers (one day a week, or four times a day etc.).
to find a carer:
council’s directory of homecare agencies (check their website).
list of local homecare agencies and national homecare organisations.
Homecare Association’s list of approved homecare agencies.
Trust’s homecare services.
UK offers some homecare services for paying clients.
Arranging a short stay in a
can use the NHS website to arrange this. Have a look at their page https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/support-and-benefits-for-carers/carer-breaks-and-respite-care/
Family and friends
you feel able to ask them, getting friends or family to stay with the cared-for
person for a bit can be a wonderful (and free) way to get a break. Make sure they have all the information about
the cared-for person with them before this takes place. It might be best to
have a shorter, trial run of a few hours before committing to a longer break.
will allow you, the carer and the cared-for person to predict any difficulties
and create a friendly rapport.
Charities offering respite
following charities offer supportive holidays for free or at a discounted rate
for carers and the cared-for. You may like to make further inquiries with them.
for dementia patients and their carers).
holidays for elderly or disabled people).
has planned breaks or grants and can help low income families referred by a
social worker, GP, health visitor or charity.
- grants low income families with disabled children holidays.
Sitting services: temporary
services are either free or significantly cheaper than others. Contact your
local carers service,
Self-payment for respite care: you can
help the person who needs care find the financial means to pay for this. This
could be done through:
- Benefits (Attendance Allowance)
- Personal savings
There’s no way
around it; caring is hugely expensive. Respite care costs £700-800 a week or up
to £1500 for staying in a care home or having a live-in carer.
This is worth considering as a staggering 35% of carers are not claiming for benefits they are entitled to!
If you care for at least 35 hours a week and are over the age of
16, you may well be entitled to Carer’s Allowance which would provide you with
£64.60 per week. This is true even if
you are not related to and/or do not live with the person you are caring for.
Visit the government website, talk to
your local GP or council, or ring one of the helplines listed below to get
further advice & guidance on this. Make sure you receive what the
government wants to give you.
Relocating practical tasks can help
you save time and conserve some of your much-needed energy. The internet could
be a huge helping hand here. You might like to consider doing the following:
- An online food shop – these will save your
time and energy. You can even schedule repeat orders weekly or monthly.
- Order repeat prescriptions using NHS services.
Although, you will want to speak to your GP before doing so, and do not rush
into using an online pharmacy service, as these could prove risky as we
describe in our report here.
- Use an app called ‘Jointly’, run by Carers UK,
which helps you stay connected you’re your friends and family. https://www.jointlyapp.com/
Read our article on tech for elderly
people which details more invaluable tech solutions which can ease carers’
anxieties; from automated beds to motion sensitive lighting. https://onlinefirstaid.com/technology-for-elderly/
The charity Marie Curie has a
wonderfully extensive page with details on wellbeing of carers to help with practical
aspects of care such as how to help someone go to the toilet. It is a wealth of
useful and under-shared information:
It is called ‘Becoming a carer’ and
can be found here. https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/being-there/helping-someone-cope/carer-role
Being a carer is stressful: you are
responsible not only for your own wellbeing, but the livelihood of another
vulnerable individual. Carers UK have a page that can help you to manage your
stress levels – mindfulness, meditation, respite and exercise are all
Healthy eating can also do wonders in
this field. Staying in contact with friends and family, or going to local
community events will give you time out and hopefully some conversational
therapy time, too! Don’t be afraid to let others know of the difficulties you
face as a carer. So many of us have had caring experience that others are bound
to sympathise directly. Even if they haven’t, they will want to hear and
relieve some of your burden for you.
Some carers feel pressure not to
complain about their position, because they may feel lucky in comparison to the
unwell person they are caring for. But it is absolutely normal to find caring
extremely taxing. Find support in others if you can.
Carers should consider counselling if
they feel especially stressed, depressed or overburdened. It’s a good idea to
make sure your GP is aware of your caring duties and the potential for it to
affect your wellbeing.
A good article to read if you are
considering counselling can be found here. https://carers.org/article/counselling-carers
NHS health check for over-40s
Anyone over 40 should book a health
assessment with their GP and are advised to do so (also for free) every five
years. Carers are advised to be especially vigilant in checking their own
For more information, click here. https://carers.org/article/free-nhs-health-check
If you have Carer’s Allowance, or
assist in caring for an elderly person, you will qualify for a free flu jab
each Winter. It is strongly recommended that you take this opportunity to
prevent you or the cared-for person developing an illness.
in case of an emergency
It is important to
think about who you could contact if an emergency prevented you from caring for
the looked after person.
A relative, friend
or neighbour would be ideal. It would be sensible to approach this person and
agree the arrangements with them.
- Have access to the
property (door keys, or knowing the code to a safe).
- Have a
relationship with the looked after person or have met them, in order to
understand the care required for a short while.
- Have a set of
notes (electronic or a physical copy) about what to do. This could include
medication information as well as any other essential caring information.
that have specific help for carers
There are more of these than you might
have thought. They offer services from phonelines (listed below), social
events, financial support and more. The charity may have a local branch in your
area for you to contact.
short breaks for constant carers
All UK employees are legally
guaranteed a 20-minute break per 6 hour shift they work.
You may not see it this way, but
caring is a job and therefore carers should be taking regular breaks of some
The best way to make sure you don’t
skip a break is to embed it in your schedule. Plan some time to relax and get
away from your role at least once a week. Making this part of your routine will
help ingrain the habit and decrease the chances that you neglect this time much
needed to look after yourself.
Some suggestions are:
- Weekly exercise class, such as gentle yoga.
- Weekly coffee date with friends.
- Scheduled time each evening to relax with a
book or watch television.
Whatever you choose to do, providing
you prioritise yourself in these moments – doing something enjoyable (a hobby
or spending time with friends) or simply de-stressing alone – you will benefit
from the relaxation and maintain your ability to care well.
of a debrief
Professional councillors, medical
staff and many others have ‘debrief’ sessions in which they can speak with
colleagues about stressful conversations they have had in their jobs.
Find someone, a professional, charity
volunteer or friend with whom you can share your daily experiences with
someone. Even if you don’t think you need this, it is of great help to have
someone who knows what you are going through and who could be of support to you
if it became necessary. Speaking about your caring experiences with an exterior
person can help you see your situation in a more objective manner.
If you are feeling isolated, remember
help exists to be used. From face to face local guidance (both governmental and
charity run) to the numerous telephone help lines, these exist to help people
Don’t underestimate the value of your
work and please feel entitled to make use of the resources designed to help you.
In doing so, you’re looking after
yourself and safeguarding the person you care for.
Written by Emma
Hammett, CEO of First Aid for Life
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not
in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not
responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this
information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to
understand what to do in a medical emergency.
a first aid course now – the skills you learn could equip you with the
knowledge to save your child’s life! https://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk
Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning fully regulated and Ofqual approved
first aid training company. www.onlinefirstaid.com are the leading UK
online first aid training providers to allow you to learn these vital skills
when it suits you
Find us on Facebook, Twitter &