There are millions of Carers across the UK. Supporting family members suffering from a long-term illness, mental health, disability or simply those who are unable to cope on their own. Carers offer a vital lifeline that will help many remain in their homes for longer.
If you are new to the role of being a Carer or maybe just want a fresh perspective, here are some great tips to help you.
1. Open and honest communications
It’s not uncommon for family members to have different views on the sort of care needed. The geographical challenges of people living in other parts of the UK is an additional factor. In many instances, one individual is left to manage the care while others will dip in and out.
Talking to your family about what is happening is important. This includes how your loved one is coping from week to week, any changes to their behaviour or condition. The level of care you’re providing and where you’ve had to adapt. This is also a great way to involve other members of the family and get their opinion.
And don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be a face to face conversation every time. Use technology and the internet to keep everyone in the loop. A facetime call while you’re with your loved one to family members who live away. Set-up a WhatsApp group to send photos, videos and messages. It all helps to keep everyone up to date.
2. Accept help when offered
Being a Carer can be an incredibly difficult job to do. It’s often not something you would choose to do but is taken on without hesitation when the need is there. Which is why accepting help when it’s offered is also the right thing to do.
Your local support network can be a life-saver. People you know are probably more than happy to help you out. Sitting with your loved one while you carry out other errands or asking them to pick up some shopping. It’s ok to work this into your care activities and will probably give them a sense of satisfaction to know they can help you.
3. Take care of yourself
Being absorbed in the role of a Carer it can take over your whole life. It’s important to take some time for yourself. Be mindful of your health and mental wellbeing it can be very easy to enter a downward spiral which can result in you not being able to continue to give the care you want.
Arranging time away with the help of family or friends can give you a real boost. If you have your own family you mustn’t neglect them but you will need to make plans. A weekend away with friends is another great tonic. Moments when you can recharge and rebalance the rigours of providing care.
4. Support from other carers
Talking to people in a similar situation to you is always helpful. They will understand what you are experiencing and can provide real empathy. You can compare notes, look at your situation from a fresh perspective even pick up some new ideas you hadn’t thought about.
There are organisations you can go to for support. Carersuk is a national charity with a supportive community for Carers. You can search for a local group of individuals in the same situation as you as well as access online information. It’s good to know you’re not alone and most of what you are experiencing is similar to how other Carers feel.
5. Care for the individual
When you become a Carer for someone you must understand the individual. The level of involvement they want to have in their care should be taken into account. For some, it’s that moment of realisation when they cannot cope on their own any longer. So making sure they still feel in control is important.
This will depend on who you are caring for, their personality and level of needs. Conditions that deteriorate over time will need you to be flexible and adapt your care as needed. For example, those living with dementia are often in denial. You have to find ways to provide the support they need in a ‘matter of fact’ sort of way.
Building relationships with the local doctors and medical staff will help everyone. You will become a familiar face and they will know you understand the situation. It will also ensure that when you need additional help or a situation arises you can act quickly.
6. Financial support
This is probably not the first thing you think about but there is help and certain benefits you are entitled to as a Carer. Citizens Advice is a good source of information to understand what you are entitled to. It can be a minefield and if you don’t know the right questions to ask you never get the right answer.
Age Care Advice offer a range of home support services. We know what you should be asking and the help you can access. Providing you with the right level of guidance is as important as the quality care we deliver.
7. Organising the paperwork
Dealing with your loved ones paperwork can feel awkward. It will get down to the very heart of their affairs but it’s a necessary part of your role. Being organised with your documentation will help with managing the household bills as well as medical appointments and medication.
There will also be legal documentation such as Lasting Power of Attorney. There are two types, one for health and welfare, the other for property and financial affairs. Important if your loved one is likely to lose mental capacity and cannot deal with their affairs. It will allow you to do this on their behalf.
How long have you been a Carer and what are your top tips?