Health Services Available for Carers
As a carer you will probably become more aware of the health services available than before whether dealing with problems that arise with the person you care for or due to increased problems with your own health.
Looking After Yourself
As a carer, you are 50% more likely than others to suffer from depression and other health related problems. If you become seriously ill, you will not be able to care for your loved one and so it is imperative that you remember to look after yourself. Make sure that you eat properly, get regular daily exercise other than that involved in your caring responsibilities, and most importantly, share the care whenever possible. This will allow you some time to yourself to re-charge your batteries and do things that you enjoy and hence keep your spirits up.
Doctor and GP Surgery
By and large, your access to the many services offered by the NHS will be through your doctor or GP surgery. You need to register with a local doctor who will then refer you or the person you care for to specialists if necessary. This can be for a variety of illnesses or medical conditions including chiropody and physiotherapy. If you are prescribed medication, there is usually a charge made unless through ill health or low income, you are exempt. For specialist referrals, there is now the Choose and Book appointment system that allows you, the patient to choose the hospital, date and time of an appointment to suit you. Local surgeries usually have community or district nurses who can deal with minor ailments and make home visits to people with chronic illnesses. The surgeries may hold regular clinics for specific conditions such as diabetes, or blood pressure and support groups to help with weight loss and smoking. If you need help with caring for your loved one, the doctor is also the person to approach to arrange a Care Assessment. Although this will be carried out by Social Services, the referral can be made through your GP surgery.
NHS Direct is a 24 hour telephone advice line on 0845 4647 and health information website on http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk. There are also a number of NHS Direct drop-in centres at various shopping High Street locations and shopping malls around the country.
To find a local NHS dentist, either contact NHS Direct as above or ask your doctor's surgery or local Citizen Advice Bureau. There is usually a charge for dental treatment unless you or the person you care for falls into an exemption category due to ill health or low income.
Most opticians offer NHS eyesight tests although there is usually a charge. However, if a close member of your family suffers from glaucoma, this is normally waived. Before having the eyesight test, make sure that you know what charges may be involved. If you or the person you care for is on a low income, you may qualify for a free eyesight test and vouchers towards the cost of any prescription charge for glasses.
Hospital Accident and Emergency Department
If you or the person you care for has an injury and needs urgent help, take them to the local hospital A & E department. On arrival, the gravity of an injury will be judged by a health professional and treated accordingly. However, if you have a critical injury, you should call the emergency services.
Whether or not you are registered with a local doctor, if you or the person you care for has a health emergency, you should telephone 999 for the emergency services and an ambulance will come to your aid.