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Living As A Carer

by | Apr 1, 2022 | Blog

Becoming a first-time family carer is not really something that you can always plan for. You may even have been a family carer for longer than you realise, if you’ve already been looking after a loved one for while (doing their food shopping, helping to clean their home, helping them out with daily tasks etc.).

Whether it’s through deteriorating health, accident, disability, or you have a child with additional needs, being a new carer can be scary. It’s also a role you often have to learn quickly.

But you are not alone.

There are a number of resources, services and people you can connect with to help you in your new caring role.

What to expect as a first-time family carer

Being a family carer can be a rewarding experience but it’s not without its challenges. Here are some of the difficulties faced by family carers, how many can you relate to?

  1. The struggle of looking after themselves while looking after someone else
  2. Feeling isolated, lacking that social interaction with friends and the people around them
  3. Learning to accept help and seek support when they need it
  4. Finding it difficult to see themselves as a carer, as they see it as part and part of taking care of someone they love
  5. Feeling guilty for struggling or getting frustrated at the one they’re caring for
  6. Struggling to find the right support, as other friends and family may not know what to say or how to help

There are many blogs and social communities online acting as a safe space where carers can share what they’re going through and offer advice to other carers in similar situations. Looking into these online spaces could help to give you some insight in some of the things you can expect to deal with in your daily life.

Carers UK is a great place to start in your online search as it’s the main membership charity in the UK for carers. They have an online forum where carers can speak to each other for help and support and they’ve also put together some advice for first-time carers, from carers. Here are two of our favourite quotes from the article:

“I think I realised I was a carer when my husband became so ill that he had to give up work and wasn’t able to cope with many daily tasks which then fell on my shoulders. 12 years on and we both still hate the word, but have recognised that accepting that label means I can get the support I need. Recognise yourself as a carer, even if you don’t like the word and its connotations.”

– Rachel

“However strong you start out, it’s easy to become isolated when you’re caring for someone. You can get overtired, or physically and mentally exhausted. You may have nights where you cannot sleep with worries. Don’t forget who you are and what makes you happy.”

– Helen

You can read the full article on carers.org

How to approach caring for your loved one

There’s nothing that can quite prepare you for becoming a family carer, for the challenges or for the joys. The first time you need to help your loved one use the toilet because they can’t do it themselves anymore or the first time a family member with dementia or other memory condition forgets who you are.

Taking care of bathing or toileting can often feel like one of the trickiest tasks to do, especially when you’re taking care of your parents as the caring role-reversal can feel unsettling. To help make this a little easier, we’ve put together some suggestions to help you out:

  • Work out who should do what
    If your loved one needs help with washing themselves, you should have a conversation beforehand to agree what they need help with and what they’re comfortable with you doing before they have their shower or bath
  • Get everything organised before you start
    Realising you don’t have an item you need at a crucial moment can make the situation far more stressful. When it’s time to help them shower or bathe, make sure there’s plenty of shampoo and shower gel or body wash to hand, plus a clean and dry towel ready and waiting. Try and make sure the toilet is well stocked with toilet paper and that the route to it is kept clear to help avoid any accidents
  • Start from the top
    Many people start from the top and move down when washing themselves. If your loved one has difficulty bending or stretching, they may be able to wash the upper half of their body while you wash the lower half. This can also help to make the task quicker too and help alleviate some of the awkwardness as you’ll both be occupied
  • Distraction is your friend
    The first few times will probably be very awkward while you both adjust to the new situation, so try not to bring any more attention to it. Talk about something else, anything else that can help the situation to feel more normal and relaxed. Once you’re both more comfortable with your new routine you may not need to try and distract from it as much
  • Remember the little things
    It’s those little touches that can help them feel more presentable and like themselves, such as taking time to do their hair, put on their make-up, helping them shave or brushing their teeth, if they struggle to do it themselves

Did you know?

6000 people start caring every day.

Where to look for support

There is an abundance of information and support online for carers. Whether you want to talk to a professional on the phone, chat with someone through a forum or just find out more information about caring for a loved one, there are sites dedicated to helping you.

Carers Trust

Carers Trust works to improve support, services, and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring (unpaid) for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.

They have a range of resources to help unpaid carers and the people they’re caring for, including links to local services available and a list of online forums and communities for carers.

You can find out more on the Carers Trust website here.

Did you know?

There are an estimated 7 million unpaid carers in the UK.

Alzheimer’s Society

Alzheimer’s Society supports everyone affected by dementia and have loads of articles and guides on how to care for someone with dementia, including the legal aspects of care. Looking after someone with a memory condition can be incredibly rewarding while also being one of the biggest challenges of your life, seeing someone you love change so much over time. You can find their guide to looking after yourself here.

They also have an online community where you can connect with others going through similar experiences. It’s a helpful reminder that you are not alone in what you’re experiencing, that there are sources of help and support available to you.

One of the huge benefits that the Alzheimer’s Society provide is literally that we’re open for everyone. We’re here just as much for the carers, the family, the loved ones as much as we are for the person with the diagnosis.

Scope

Scope supports people with additional needs of all ages and their families. They have a wealth of information and advice available, including a dedicated section for families with disabled children, which offers guidance on the journey to a diagnosis, how to get educational support, and where to find emotional support if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Visit scope.org.uk

The Children’s Society

The Children’s Society have a “Include” service designed to support young carers across the UK who care for parents, siblings or others living with a chronic illness or disability. You can use the interactive map on their website to find young carer’s projects available in your local area or explore there’s also guidance available on education, finances, mental health advice and more.

Visit childrenssociety.org.uk

Did you know?

Over 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week each year.

How The Care Act 2014 can help you

The Care Act 2014 came into effect on 1 April 2015 and was put in place to strengthen the rights and recognition of carers in the social care system. As part of this act, you and the people you care for are entitled to an assessment of your/their needs. This is regardless of your/their income, finances, or level of need. These assessments are incredibly important to help work out how what support you need from your local authority to make sure you can continue going to work or caring for children or other adults with disabilities that you’re already caring for.

Did you know?

Carers allowance is the main carer’s benefit and is £67.60 for a minimum of 35 hours.

End of life care

A terminal diagnosis is one of the hardest times to come to terms with, but it’s important to make the most of the time you have left with the person you’re caring for.

If the person you’re caring for is able to make their own decisions and has full control of their mind, it’s really important that you talk with them about putting their affairs in order. Even more so if they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, since their condition will get worse with time.

Putting power of attorney in place and getting wills sorted will help to make life easier in the long run, as will keeping records and statements of everything involved in their care. This is so that if your loved one is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease you can show them the necessary documents to help explain why something is happening or why they may not be able to do certain tasks, like driving.

“Lasting Power of Attorney (L.P.A’s) and wills must be in place for when things start to deteriorate as it will make life easier. Mum kept the bank books etc and when bills had to be paid we wrote out cheques to show her what had been done. She wasn’t capable of making the financial decisions herself anymore, but as a family we were and her banks and other financial institutions were aware of this.”

– Val

Dying Matters has a wealth of information and advice about death and dying. Visit their website.

How Days Mobility & A1 Hygiene can help

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Whatever you’re dealing with, we’re here to help you through life’s ups and downs with our range of independent living and mobility aids to help your loved one maintain their independence for longer and our Product Advice Service.

  • Product Advice Service
    Choosing the right aid to suit your loved one’s unique needs isn’t always easy. Our Product Advice Service is on hand to help you work out if an individual product is right for your loved one.