You never know what’s around the corner. Sounds like a cliché but if nothing else 2020 has proved this point. For those living with a disability, long-term health condition or simply getting old it has been a difficult year. What it’s also done is place additional strain on Carers.

Every Carer has a unique journey and it will start at a different place. You may be someone who was able to prepare for being a Carer or it could be something that has changed your life in an instant. What will help is if you can make plans and it’s never too late to start.

Do your research and continue to communicate

To be honest, when put into the role of Carer it’s rarely something you’ve planned for in your life. Invariably it becomes an all-encompassing situation. Taking over your life and every thought. But don’t forget there is an individual you are caring for at the centre of everything you do.

Being efficient and having to think about every scenario are great qualities. The danger is you become single-minded and focused on what you believe is best. Ultimately it can cause increased distress for the person you’re caring for.

Which is why it’s important to keep communicating. You are going to have to make plans for the future but involve your loved one. If you haven’t been in this situation before there will be a lot to discover.

You can do all the research then sit down and discuss the best way forward with your loved one. But always be conscious of the individual and how much they want to be involved. A difficult balance but only you will know the boundaries.

Get your Lasting Power of Attorney set-up early

Not something any of us want to think about. But when your loved one reaches the stage when they either don’t have the mental capacity or simply don’t want to make their own decisions, you will need a Lasting Power of Attorney. You can research these online or speak to your local solicitor.

But in simple terms, this is a legal document that enables you to make decisions on behalf of your loved one. There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) which are set-up individually. One is for health and welfare and covers all medical aspects. The other is for property and financial affairs.

It’s best to set-up the LPAs with your loved one as early as possible. A critical piece of planning for you. Giving you the authority to manage all aspects of your love one’s affairs. You can put all the legal documentation in place but the LPA is not invoked until registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

If you don’t have an LPA set-up, the process becomes a lot more onerous. You would need to apply to the Court of Protection for permissions to deal with your loved one’s affairs. This can be a lengthy process and you will need to submit an annual report documenting the actions you have taken during the year.

Make yourself known and be a familiar face

As a Carer, it’s good to let other people know about you and that you’re providing care for your loved one. People like the doctors, pharmacist even the local shop. It will make your life easier and you will be an important contact should any issues arise.

It’s about working in partnership not just with your loved one but with the other services that support them being at home. Identify who is important, make a plan and lay the groundwork.

You’ll then be able to share the workload. It will also be easier to get what you need such as repeat prescriptions and you’ll immediately know where to go if there’s an emergency.

Friends are another great source of help. Make yourself known to them, explain what’s happening and if they offer support there’s no shame in taking it. People often gain a lot of satisfaction in being able to provide practical help.

Involve other family members in this even if they live out of the area. Introduce them to the people you know. It’s another network for you that can always provide short-term cover if needed.

Put a plan in place for increased care

Inevitably the care needs of your loved one will change. For many this results in an increased level of care. If you accept this situation then it’s a good idea to think about your options ahead of time.

The first stage might be to increase the amount of care needed at home. If your loved one is in a position to be able to pay for the care themselves, a term called self-funded, there are many options. Age Care Advice is a specialist in this area and can offer lots of support.

If you’re going to need extra care at home it’s always good to meet with the care agency as early as possible. Recommendations from friends or family are always very helpful. People can tell you about their experiences and some of the pitfalls.

Look at the support the agency offers and assess if what you need is available. You should feel comfortable with the organisation and the carers. Speak to some of their clients and find out first-hand what people think.

There will be circumstances where a care home is the only option. For example, dementia patients may need the security of a specialist unit as the disease progresses. This can become very expensive. There are long-term financial care options which could be worth discussing with a financial adviser.

It can be a very daunting and lonely situation when you become a Carer. For most people, it’s their first time. Which is why you should talk to as many people as you can. It can be quite refreshing, you’d be surprised how many can share their own stories and advice.

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