UK-wide charity, Carers Trust, defines a carer as “anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support”.
It’s fair to say that the role and experience of each carer is unique but there nearly seven million people in the UK who currently care for a loved one in some capacity. Carers often provide personal care, emotional support and help with practical tasks, such as housework, financial management and much more.
According to figures on the Carers UK website, as many as six out of ten people will become a carer for a loved one at some stage in their lives.
But who cares for the carers?
Some amazing work is being done in the UK to support and recognise the contribution of carers, who provide support that would otherwise fall to external services (unpaid care saves the state £119 billion a year!) but most of us would agree that more help is needed.
The statistics about the reality for carers make for pretty bleak reading. According to Carers UK:
- 45% of us have given up work to care
- 61% of carers have experienced depression and many feel they are unable to maintain their own lives because of the round-the-clock demands of caring
- 49% of carers are struggling financially because of their caring role
Clearly, carers need support too.
One of our priorities at Elijah’s Hope is to provide carers like you with the support you need to look after your own well being as well as that of the person for whom you care. At the moment we are achieving this by running Luncheon Clubs, connecting people with one-to-one Peer Supporters and facilitating Circles of Support . We will also be using this blog to point you to further sources of information, support and advice.
Looking after your needs
It is essential that you carve out some time for yourself occasionally. The only way you can support your loved one or your entire family unit is to have energy in reserve because everyone will suffer if you’re always running on empty.
One step you might want to consider, if you haven’t done so already, is to arrange a Carer’s Assessment, which looks at your needs. This is a chance to talk to your local authority about the support you need in your role as a carer. If you’re looking after a child under the age of 18 who has a disability, you can arrange a parent-carer assessment, which will look at the needs of your family as a whole. You might want to check out the NHS website under Care and Support to find out more.
It’s important to be able to arrange an occasional break from your role as a carer. You may not be aware that there are a number of options open to you.
You may be able to arrange replacement care for your loved one, so that someone comes in to your home a few mornings a week or for a few days to replace the care you normally give.
Replacement care may be possible if the person you care for wants to go away on holiday without you. You may also be able to organise replacement care so that you’re able to spend time with your loved one on holiday or on a day out together, while temporarily handing over your care responsibilities. That way, you both get an opportunity to relax while enjoying each others company.
Alternatively, your may decide that respite care is a better option. This would be where the person you care for spends a short period of time in temporary accommodation, such as a care home or with a respite carer, so that you’re able to have a break.
Financial support and employment
On Monday 30th June 2014, changes to employment law came into force. These changes allow anyone, including the three million carers currently in employment, the right to request flexible working, as long as they have worked for their employer for more than 26 weeks. This is a significant step as previous legislation only applied to parents or people caring for older family members. This means that the 96,000 people currently caring for friends and neighbours finally have more rights.
There is no doubt that it is still exceptionally difficult for carers to remain in employment. Parent-carers, for example, may find that they struggle to find an early years’ place for their child, making it impossible to return to work. On the other hand, the person you care for may need so much on-going support that it just wouldn’t be physically possible to for you to work.
If you are unable to work and care at the same time, you may be facing significant financial problems. Organisations such as Carers Trust and Carers UK are just two that may be able to offer you advice about your employment rights and potential sources of funding. If you haven’t already connected with them, do have a look at their websites for more information.
It’s impossible to overstate how important it is for you to get the emotional support you need to be able to fulfill your role as a carer. Too often, carers feel lonely, isolated and invisible to the wider community. We are working hard to stop this happening.
If you would like more support.....
Please Contact us at Elijah’s Hope to find out more about our Luncheon Clubs, workshops, events, peer supporters and Circles of Support. If you feel you need different support and would like to know about other services you might be able to access, let us know and we’ll see what we can find out for you.
Contact us or leave a comment below.