In Britain today, it can be argued that carers have little choice. Community services across the country vary tremendously and if you are looking after someone you love dearly, you probably feel that you have little choice but to care for them. However, there are still a few things that you can and should make choices about:
Arrange a Care Assessment and Carer's Assessment
Both assessments are undertaken by a social worker employed by your local authority. If there are medical issues, they may be accompanied by a nurse or doctor or other health professional. The assessments aim to discover what community services are available to help you and your loved one. The services could include meals on wheels, attendance at a day centre or a stay in respite care for your loved one; something to give you a break.
The assessment will also give you peace of mind that the manner in which you care for your loved one is appropriate as well as a point of contact should an emergency arise and you need extra help.
Find Out about Benefits
As a carer, you may be entitled to claim the Carer's Allowance of £48.65 per week. If you are under 60 and on a low income, you may be eligible for Income Support; if you draw the State Retirement Pension and are on a low income, you may be eligible for Pension Credit. If the person you look after needs a lot of care, they may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance, depending on their age. If you are eligible to claim certain benefits, you automatically become eligible for other help such as assistance with Council Tax and rent. /
Share the Care
Don't imagine that you are the only person capable of looking after your loved one. It is common for people who become dependent on another to insist that only that one person (ie. you) is good enough/kind enough/gentle enough/understanding enough to provide the care. You need to avoid these all-consuming demands from your loved one and let others lend a hand. Don't feel guilty - you know that if your loved one were well, they wouldn't make such unreasonable demands and if necessary, ask your doctor or district nurse to back you up in suggesting that others come and sit with your loved one from time to time. Once the routine is in place, you may discover that your loved one actually looks forward to seeing a different face and having more variety of conversation. It also offers other friends and family members the opportunity to help and demonstrate their affection through giving support.
Maintain a Life of Your Own
This has to be the most important maxim for any carer. To maintain your personal sanity, you do need to keep up with some sort of personal life purely for your own enjoyment. This could be playing a sport, going out for a meal with friends, taking the odd short holiday alone or simply doing the daily crossword - whatever of life's pleasures that you can continue to enjoy should be encouraged. This is not only for your benefit, but also for that of your loved one. As a carer, you are twice as likely as others to suffer from depression and it's hardly surprising. The job is demanding and repetitive, offers no holidays or time off, and pays a pittance in benefits. Hence it is very important to do other things that you enjoy as much as you can to keep your spirits up and help you continue to be a patient and compassionate carer.