According to the government's Family Resources Survey, 6% of people in the UK provide unpaid care. That's a little over 4 million unpaid carers. They can be from a range of ages, from children to older adults. Most unpaid carers care for members of their family or close friends on a daily basis. The support that carers provide to their loved ones can involve anything from cooking meals and taking them to medical appointments to assisting with mobility, continence, and administering medication. But what does it mean to be a carer?
For some people, caring for their loved ones can be a full-time (unpaid) job. It can be highly demanding, both emotionally and physically, and it is important that carers also take time to care for themselves.
Paid carers are essentially doing the same job as unpaid carers, except that they can go home at the end of the day and take days off. It is, therefore, extremely important that as an unpaid carer, you make sure that you exercise self-care.
Many unpaid carers find it difficult to take time for themselves. They struggle with feelings of guilt if they cannot care for their loved one in the way that they want to, as much as they want to. It is important that you recognise and acknowledge these feeling if you have them.
According to Helping Hands, “While it’s admirable that carers go above and beyond for the person in their care, they can put their own health at risk. Even if it’s just for a short period, accepting a little extra support and looking after their own wellbeing is essential for carers to continue looking after their loved one”.
When a carer needs time off – whether it is for a holiday, a planned amount of time, or an emergency - respite cover can be brought in to take their place on a temporary basis. Respite cover can be arranged and supplied by professional carers with the knowledge and experience to look after their loved ones as well as being able to make them feel comfortable and at ease.
It is important to remember that everybody needs to have some time off, either to allow you to get away, or just to enjoy some fun time with your loved one. Respite care is the best way to do this.
Even if caring is not your official job, you may be entitled to an amount of Carer’s Allowance. There are several criteria that you must meet to be eligible, including a minimum number of hours each week that you are caring for your loved one, and a cap on your weekly income.
Carer's Allowance is a very useful benefit, which aims to make life easier for unpaid carers and the people they care for.
Get Extra Help
There is no harm in asking for extra help. Whether you need someone who can come in a couple of times a week to do the house cleaning, or an additional carer to help your loved one with specialist nursing care, getting some extra help can really take the pressure off.
Look After Yourself
You cannot expect to look after someone else if you are not well yourself. Self-care is essential and ensuring that you are physically healthy, happy, and emotionally well is vital both to you and the person you care for. Some ways that you can maintain your physical and mental health include:
- Taking time to do things that you enjoy
- Trying to take regular exercise
- Eating healthy, nutritious food
- Going for regular check-ups at the GP
- Being honest about your needs
- Trying meditation and mindfulness
- Getting outside as much as you can
- Discussing your struggles
Ensuring that you are psychologically well in relation to the work that you are doing as a carer is essential. To maintain a healthy relationship with your caring role, you should ensure that you:
- Are realistic with yourself, your loved one, and other people
- Accept help when it is offered
- Confide in people about how you are feeling
- Try to support your loved one’s independence
- Find positivity in the relationship that you have with your loved one
Being an unpaid carer for your loved one can be challenging and demanding. However, there is help out there that can help to take the pressure off without you losing control of the care that you provide. Ultimately, being a carer can also be a very rewarding experience that brings you closer to your loved one. Think of it as an opportunity to spend quality time with someone you love.
More Support for Carers
Here at Lifeline24, we offer a life-saving personal alarm service throughout the UK. If you care for a relative or friend, you may want to consider a personal alarm system. Having an alarm in place can give you the reassurance you need to support your loved one's independence. You won't need to worry about popping out to the shop because your loved one can call for help with one touch of a button in an emergency.
Lifeline alarm users each receive a lightweight, waterproof pendant. Pressing a button on the pendant will raise an instant alert in our 24-hour Response Centre, based in the UK. From there, an expert operator will answer the call and reassure the alarm user. We will arrange whatever help is needed - whether that's calling on a carer or neighbour to visit and assist, or calling for an ambulance on the alarm user's behalf.
To find out more about the Lifeline alarm service, click here to read our simple guide. Alternatively, you can contact our friendly team online or by telephone at any time. We're always on hand to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call on 0800 999 0400. Prices start from just £12.99 per month or £119 for a whole year (that's 12 months service for the price of 9).