Do you look after someone who couldn’t manage without your help?
Do you look after someone? It could be a friend, family member or neighbour who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction could not cope without your support.
Anyone can be an unpaid carer and caring takes many different forms. Caring is undertaken by individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. For example, a carer could be a 14-year-old girl helping her parents look after her disabled brother, an 80-year-old man caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s, or a 40 year-old woman in full-time employment who provides regular support to an elderly relative as well as looking after her family.
You could be helping with household tasks such as cleaning or cooking, administering medication, organising and transporting someone to medical appointments, providing personal care or providing emotional support.
You could be caring once a day, a couple of times a week or all the time. You could be caring for somebody who lives with you, or for someone who lives some distance away. There are no time limits to being a carer.
Caring takes many forms, and many carers do not see themselves as carers. Carers can remain hidden for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to be labelled a carer, not recognising themselves as a carer, and not knowing there is support available to them.
As a community it is vital that we help identify carers so that they can access the information and support available to them.
Three in 5 of us will become a carer at some point in our lives. It can happen at any time and to anyone, and it has a huge impact on a person’s life.
Why Carers Need Support
There are over 69,000 carers in East Sussex and around 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK who are looking after an ill, older or disabled family member, friend or partner. The number is only set to increase as society becomes increasingly dependent on the contribution of unpaid carers, who save the economy £132 billion per year.*
Caring, however, can have a big impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. There are many challenges and issues that carers face every day.
Health and wellbeing
Looking after someone can be physically exhausting. You may be getting up several times in the night as well as caring throughout the day. You might be juggling caring with looking after the rest of your family and working full or part-time. Caring can leave you emotionally exhausted which leads to stress, anxiety and depression.
Caring can affect your relationships with your partner, family and other relationships. If you’re a couple, you may not be able to enjoy shared activities or plan for a future together. Caring can be isolating if your caring role reduces your ability to leave the house. It may be hard to maintain friendships and develop new ones, or keep up with interests and activities that you have previously enjoyed. Many young adult carers often miss out on the things their friends take for granted, like going out and socialising, enjoying sports, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Caring can lead to financial hardship if you give up work to care, or are managing on a reduced income or benefits. You may not be able to do the things that many people take for granted; such as house repairs, going on holiday, enjoying a family day out, or running a car. Becoming a carer can feel like a constant battle to access the benefits and other financial help you may need.
Getting the right information
Caring can be extremely complicated. You may be trying to navigate the complex benefits system, or are uncertain how to claim the carers allowance. You may not know the right questions to ask or don’t feel confident enough to deal with professionals who are involved with the person you care for.
No one should be left to care alone, and it is vital that all unpaid carers feel supported in their caring role, or feel supported to stop caring, if that’s what they choose.