Caring for an older disabled relative can have practical, financial and emotional challenges. But you’re not alone. There are over 6.5 million carers in the UK of which 1.5 million are aged over 60.
Carers provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner. They are people like you who provide care without pay, out of love, respect, responsibility and duty. Carers give so much to our society yet they often experience poor health, poverty and discrimination as a consequence of caring.
Wear the ‘Carer’ label
I have met many people over the years who refuse to wear the label of carer, preferring to perceive himself or herself as a son, daughter or other family member. For some people this is really important and their wishes should be respected. There are benefits though in using the term carer, if you provide regular care and support to someone (your relationship to them doesn’t matter) because it will enable you to get help when you need it.
Be persistent when looking for support
The contribution that carers make is often forgotten and taken for granted. Services can be difficult to access, complicated to understand and information about available services can sometimes be difficult to obtain.
Social Services and NHS Trusts are given grants from central government to provide services for those carers, who provide substantial and regular support to people receiving social care support. Those services include, for example, breaks from caring responsibilities and gym and swimming fees to promote their own health and well-being.
However, it is very much a postcode lottery and the priority given to providing support for carers, especially if the person they care for fund their own care and support, varies enormously across the country.
Take care of YOU
When I was caring for my terminally ill father, I found that I quickly became lonely and felt isolated, so make sure you have someone to talk to regularly and maybe join a Carers Forum where you can get support, information and advice from other carers. Also you need regular breaks from caring to recharge your batteries. If you check out the organisations listed below, you will find the support you need to do this.
Looking after yourself is very important. How can you maintain stamina for such an emotionally and physically demanding role if you don’t look after yourself?
To help you find out what is available quickly, I have listed some services that will help you.
The Carers Direct helpline: 0808 802 0202, offers confidential information and advice on caring by calling. Lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm weekends. Calls are free
Carers UK also offer a comprehensive range of information for carers on their website www.carersuk.org or contact their free Carers Line 08088 08 777
Alzheimer’s Society. Has information about caring for someone with Dementia. You can find them on their website, www.alzheimers.org.uk or look in your relative’s phone book for their local office
The Carers Trust has a comprehensive site providing information, advice and support services to carers. Check out their website at www.carers.org or telephone 0844 800 4361
Carer’s Allowance Unit. Provides information regarding Carer’s Allowance, the main state benefit for carers, including eligibility and how to make a claim. You can find it at Carers Allowance Unit or telephone 0177 289 9489
Vitalise. Provides holidays and respite care for people with severe disabilities with or without carers at five purpose built centres in the UK. Also offers special Alzheimer’s holidays for people with Dementia and their carers, which are subsidised by the Alzheimer’s Society. Check out their website at www.vitalise.org.uk or telephone 0845 345 1970