Caring for the Caregivers

How to manage the stress of being a caregiver of the elderly

Posted Jan 16, 2020

Harry/Tapestry Pictures, Used with permission
Source: Harry/Tapestry Pictures, Used with permission

Are you a caregiver for an older person? Maybe your older relative is a cargiver themselves, looking after their partner or someone else? Whether this is a new responsibility or one that has been fulfilled for many years, getting support as a caregiver really can make a difference.

Being a carer is stressful

Being a carer can be hard work – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Fortunately, there is a great deal of support out there for people who find themselves in a caring role. Available help is varied – there is advice about a carer’s rights, information about additional support available, and help to access financial assistance too. It is important that carers are able to get timely advice, tailored to their individual circumstances and accessible in a way that suits their particular situation. In the UK, local support is most frequently offered in the form of carers centres and Crossroads Care schemes, or by carer support services run by local authorities.

What about support for carers who struggle to get out to groups? What about carers who struggle to leave the person they care for any length of time, or who struggle with transport issues or cannot afford to get out and about. An exciting and innovative way for carers to get support is via the internet and there is specific support for carers online. Carers can access this type of support from their own homes and at times convenient to them. With the rise in the use of tablets and smartphones, accessing support online is easier and more convenient all the time.

Online support for carers

Online communities and forums offer a unique way of accessing support for carers. They offer a community of other carers across the world - people who understand the impact that caring for a family member or friend has. On the Carers Trust website, carers have the opportunity to talk to one another and get this vital support online. 

Forums and discussion boards are a great opportunity to ask questions about anything related to caring. It might be a question about different forms of assessment, or how to negotiate with health and social care professionals. Discussions may be about different adaptations, aids or grants available. It may be that carers are looking to offload some of their worries or concerns or maybe share something good that has happened. Discussion boards and forums have a really wide range of subjects being covered and an equally diverse range of people replying, answering and interacting with each other.

Chatrooms

A chatroom provides the opportunity to meet with other carers and to chat freely about life, the universe and everything! Some of the conversations may be related to caring, but much of it can be chit-chat and the chance to socialise with others without having to leave the house. Joining a chatroom is really straightforward once you have registered.

On Carers.org, the chatroom is always open  but there is a specific session on a Wednesday evening from 8-9 p.m. where a wide range of carers and a member of the online staff team regularly meet.

Local Support

Across the UK, there are many carers centres which offer practical, as well as emotional, support to people who are caring in an unpaid capacity for a family member or friend who would otherwise not be able to cope.

Carers centres vary, as they are usually run by independent charities, but they offer opportunities for carers to get together, share their experiences and offer each other support. A regular get together can be a great opportunity to meet with other people who understand the impact that being a carer has. Sometimes it’s really important to be able to speak to someone who really understands what you are going through, someone who has been in a similar situation themselves.

Carers centres and Crossroads Care schemes throughout the UK offer support to carers in the town or area where they live. They offer local support and have information about other services available. All carers are welcomed and can access support through their nearest carers centre or scheme.

In order to find your local services, try searching here or alternatively, use your internet search engine and look for ‘carers centre’ and the town or area where you or your relative lives.

Carers must look after themselves

It is essential that carers look after themselves in order to be able to continue to look after the person they care for. Carers centres and schemes have staff who can help look at respite opportunities in order that carers can have a much-needed break. 

Having a chance to recuperate and rest and do something for yourself can make a real difference to your health and happiness. A little bit of ‘me time’ is not a selfish desire, but often essential for the health and well-being of all concerned.

Staff at carers centres have specialised knowledge of the benefits system and how it relates to being a carer and so they are able to help with making sure that carers are claiming for all of the financial support to which they are entitled. They can help navigate the way through carer assessment processes in order to access the support available for statutory services and advocate on behalf of carers to secure support.

Statutory support

Local authorities in the UK have a duty to offer help to carers. They have to offer Carers Assessments, which look at what additional help would make the caring role easier. The UK Care Act of 2015 means that carers are entitled to new levels of support. Local authorities have the same responsibility to assess carers’ needs as they do to assess those with care needs. They are required to look at how they can help carers in their role and how they can provide services and support, which will benefit the carer.

Providing some respite support or some additional hours of support via a paid carer worker are some of the ways that local authorities are encouraged to support carers. The support available varies around the country but can also include discounted or free access to local leisure facilities.

If you, your relative or anyone else you know, is a carer, finding support in one or all of these ways really can make a difference to both the carer and the person with care needs.