Why Carers Need Care Too
If you’re busy looking after an elderly mum or dad, you’re in good company. In the UK, more than six million of us provide some kind of care for family and friends. That’s more than the entire population of Denmark.
But although caring is a common experience, it can feel lonely and difficult. As well as the sheer physical work, it’s emotional. And the paperwork for allowances and assessments can be bewildering.
There’s nothing more natural than wanting to help loved ones. Some people become masters at this, and find caring very rewarding. For others, it can be exhausting and stressful. Many people in the ‘sandwich generation’ are supporting elderly parents and their own children. This can make things tough for your health, your free time and your bank balance. To top it all, you might not be getting the support you really need.
By focusing on someone else’s needs, it’s easy to neglect your own. Anyone who knows a stressed-out carer will recognise the stories. You stay up stupidly late just to get a couple of hours of ‘me time’. Then you wake up early feeling anxious about the day ahead. And there’s the growing emotional stress as roles change. The younger person becomes the parent, and the parent becomes the child.
Make time outside of caring
If it’s all getting too much, don’t keep it bottled in. Tell someone how you feel and keep making time for your friends and family. But seek out others who are in the same situation too . There are carers’ groups all over the country. They’ll know what you’re going through, and they’ll be happy to share tips and advice. This is handy for finding your way through all the red tape you may be struggling with.
Most importantly, with carers’ groups you can be yourself and share your feelings. You can get stuff off your chest and have a laugh. To find a group near you, head to Carers UK for contact details. Caring for someone with dementia can be especially challenging, so the Alzheimer’s Society online forum is also very useful.
Support for carers in the workplace
Some people are caring around the clock – others are balancing jobs and other commitments. If you're juggling work and caring, look into flexible working. There are times when this can be a massive help, such as when a loved one is settling at home after a hospital stay. By law, you can apply if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks in a row. But it’s worth asking anyway, as some employers can be more flexible.
If you are a carer, you're not alone
There are going to be times when you need a break. That might just be for a regular morning or afternoon, to grab a coffee with a friend. If you haven’t had a carer's assessment, it’s worth getting one, as many local authorities can offer respite cover or breaks. You might be able to arrange a respite holiday – for yourself, the person you care for or even the two of you. Carers' rights were extended three years ago so that more carers in England can receive these assessments and support.
Family and friends are the main providers of care in this country. Their time and effort is estimated to be worth £132 billion per year. That’s about the same as the whole budget for the NHS. So remember that if you’re a carer, you’re not alone. You are part of an army that’s making a difference every day – with love as well as medicine.
About PPP Taking Care
At PPP Taking Care, we’re working on the next generation of products and services to help people age well. If you are an employer, we can support your staff with our employee helpline service, making it easier for them to combine work and care. One in nine UK employees is a working carer and 46% say their job is negatively affected through tiredness, lateness and stress. By speaking to one of our helpline advisers, they can get the information and advice they need to make the right decisions about the care of their loved ones.
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