For carers, a few simple guidelines can help you look after your loved one – and yourself. Dan Parton reports.

In this section you will find:

  1. You are not alone
  2. Tell your doctor
  3. Ensure you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to
  4. Access any grants you can
  5. Think about adaptations for the home
  6. Look after yourself
  7. Take a break

You are not alone

Caring can seem like a lonely job, but almost 6 million unpaid carers live in the UK. Many organisations run support groups for carers, and there is a large support network of people available – many who may have faced similar problems to you.

Many support groups are locally based, but a few groups can provide links to local support groups, including those with an online presence: Carers UK, Carer's Trust and Chill4UsCarers.

Local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations also offer services and support that can ease the burden – and some of it is available on a daily basis. These services include having a carer visit the home and help with jobs such as bathing and preparing meals. Additionally, there are organisations in most areas that specialise in providing information and support to those who care for a relative, friend or neighbour.

Tell your doctor

GPs should note which patients are carers or cared for. This should help them to plan their services better to meet the needs of carer and cared-for patients. Good GP practices have systems in place to make sure appointments are appropriate and timely.

Ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to

Carers can claim benefits to help with the cost of caring. The Carer’s Allowance is for people who are caring for at least 35 hours a week, although there are restrictions, especially for people who also hold down a full-time job. But if you’re not working or are in education you may be entitled to claim.
Carers can also claim Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit and Income Support. A list of benefits available to you can be found from the Department for Work and Pensions by clicking here.

Access any grants you can

Many local authorities provide grants for carers, which can support you to take a break, learn a new skill, or buy equipment to make caring easier. Get in touch with your local authority or local carers’ centre for more details.

Think about adaptations for the home

There are lots of products available designed to make life easier - for the person being cared for and the carer.

For example, there are things such as bed raisers and hoists if mobility is a problem, which means the carer doesn’t have to lift the person either. Even simple things like ramps for wheelchairs and grab rails can make a big difference.

You can either buy your own equipment and adaptations or you can obtain help and advice through the NHS or your local council.

Look after yourself

The health of a carer cannot be underestimated. If you’re caring for someone full or part-time, it’s essential you look after yourself. This is for your own benefit as well as for the person you’re caring for.

Ensure you eat a healthy balanced diet and take regular exercise to look after your physical self.

Make sure you make 'me time' to go shopping, keep up with hobbies and see friends to look after your psychological self.

Take a break

Caring can be hard work and stressful, but having an extended break can make all the difference. One way to achieve this is to take respite care. This could be a short break or a long holiday – but it will provide you with an escape, and will let a professional carer temporarily do the caring in your place.

Many residential and nursing care homes take in people for respite. If you need to arrange respite care for the person you are caring for, and you receive benefits, contact your local authority. You may be able to receive financial help towards the cost of a break.

A simple Bettercaring search for ‘respite’ and the area you live in will pull up a number of care homes that specialise in providing short-term respite care.