Looking After Yourself as a Carer
When someone you care for becomes ill, has had an accident or other serious condition that necessitates you looking after them, they become your priority. As a result, it is very easy to overlook your own health and general welfare.
Your Health is Important Too
For your loved one’s own well-being, it is imperative that you keep in shape and maintain your morale. Don’t think that by considering your own needs, you are being selfish because if you fall ill or become depressed, you will no longer be able to care for your friend or relative. The following areas should be considered:
- Are you getting enough sleep and rest?
- Is your diet adequate?
- Do you get enough exercise other than that involved in your loved one’s care?
- Are you able to maintain your own interests?
- Do you still go to work?
- Do you get enough leisure time?
If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the above, you should think carefully about what measures can be taken to improve the situation.
A Care Assessment versus A Carer’s Assessment
If your loved one is no longer able to lead an independent life, they are eligible for a Care Assessment to be undertaken by a social worker from the local authority. This should ascertain what community services could be put in place to make their lives (and yours) easier. At the same time, you can ask for a Carer’s Assessment to decide what help you need to carry out your caring tasks. For example, it is not reasonable for you to be obliged to give up paid employment to look after your loved one. On the other hand, if you choose to give up work, following the Carer’s Assessment and if you are involved in caring for 35 hours per week or more, you should then be able to claim a Carer’s Allowance benefit.
What is Involved in an Assessment?
Both assessments need preparation to ensure that they do end up in being of benefit to you and your loved one. In the week prior to the social worker’s visit, it is worth keeping a log of exactly what your caring responsibilities involve:
- Could you do with another pair of hands in your caring routine? For example, is your loved one able to assist with getting in and out of bed, going to the toilet and getting dressed in the morning? Or are you putting a strain on your back when lifting them?
- Is there anyone else to share the load with the shopping, cleaning, pet care etc?
- Would some adaptations to the home be useful? For example, a stair lift, adapted shower, ramps, handrails or alarm system. Alternatively, could a downstairs bathroom or widened doorways be helpful?
- Would you appreciate more information about benefits available either to you or your loved one?
- Would you like to meet other carers locally who are in a similar position to yourself?
- If you would like to continue with your employment, are there things that could be done that would make this easier for you?
- Do you need a break from caring – either the chance for your loved one to visit a day centre on a regular basis or a complete break for a few days?
How to arrange an Assessment.
You can contact the Social Services department yourself to arrange for the assessment or ask your GP surgery to do so on your behalf. There may be some delay in arranging the initial appointment, but once you are in the system, your assessed needs should be dealt with.
Try to include the person you care for in any assessment. Let them know that it is for their benefit that you need to maintain a life of your own, good health and good spirits. Remember that as well as trying to maintain your loved one’s well-being, you should always consider your own welfare too.