Top Tips from Carers for Carers
The following practical tips have been gathered from the many carers we work with who support a parent, spouse, child, friend or loved one. This is a small selection of the gathered tips, advice and signposting we have available for carers and we are happy to advise or signpost carers in respect of their specific circumstances.
1. Know that you are not alone
Carers UK estimate that 6000 people start caring everyday. There are a huge number of people of all ages, backgrounds and stages of life sharing your experience. Connect with them, whether through local support groups, through charities, online forums etc. Check out the useful numbers and links on our resources page or call Lucy or Jo on 0115 9455639 if you would like signposting to organisations appropriate to your specific circumstances. You do not have to cope with everything alone.
2. Recognise that you are a carer even if you don’t like the word
It took a long time, years in fact, before I began to realise I was a carer for my husband. I probably only thought of myself as a carer at the point at which he had to give up work because of his illness. Looking back though, for years before that more and more daily tasks were falling to me because he simply couldn’t cope. We both still hate the word ‘carer’, but by accepting that label it means we can both get the help and support we need.
Jane, who cares for her husband.
As a carer of someone with care and support needs, your local authority has a duty of care to you as well as the person you care for. You are entitled to a carer’s assessment up to once a year which could, for example, fund respite care to enable you to take regular breaks (e.g. a few hours each week or a week’s respite care). As a carer you may also be entitled to Carer’s allowance and other benefits and practical support.
3. Formally Register as a carer with your GP
Further to number 2, there are various benefits to registering as a carer with your GP practice including:
• Access to a dedicated carer’s champion who can provide useful information and support
• Practise staff will be aware of your caring role so you won’t need to keep explaining your situation to get appointments at convenient times for either you or the person you care for
• Health checks and flu vaccinations for you
• Asking the person you care for for permission to share information with you and noting this on your medical records and involving you in planning the care of the person you look after.
4. Prioritise your well being
A healthy carer is a good carer – if you don’t look after yourself then you won’t be best able to look after someone else. Beware of “self-neglect” creeping in because of the demands of your caring role. Keep on top of your own health and health checks. Eat properly. Keep on top of your own personal care. If you are allowing any areas of your health or personal care to be negatively impacted by your caring role, recognise that these are red flags and you need to seek help and support. If you think you already are or may be in danger of self-neglecting, speak to your GP urgently. Sadly this is more common than you might think and your GP will know how to help.
5. Exercise Regularly
The endorphins released when exercising are mood enhancing. Exercising with the person you are caring for, even just a walk in the park, will benefit you both, helping to clear the mind as well as being physically beneficial. Exercise also helps to reduce symptoms of sundowning (when a person with certain mental health conditions or dementia can be susceptible to mood swings late afternoon or early evening when the sun goes down).
6. Knowledge is Power
Know about your loved ones condition (associated charities are usually the most informative), be clear on their rights and yours. Be informed, be determined and be persistent in getting the help and support you and your loved one deserve and are entitled to.
7. Plan and make decisions in advance
Depending on your loved ones condition, there may be some difficult conversations that need to be had about future care needs. Decisions about medical interventions, care at home, finding a care home, palliative care wishes, etc are, more often than not, made in stressful, urgent circumstances when they absolutely have to be. This is the worst time to make them and tends to be to the detriment of those involved. Where possible have those conversations early whether it is getting a Power of Attorney in place, agreeing a future care provider/care home/medical interventions now and then parking those decisions, and maybe never having to go back to them, but having the peace of mind that you have already made informed, consensual decisions that you can rely on in an emergency.