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How to be a carer for a loved one

How to be a carer for a loved one

Being a carer is a noble commitment, but a difficult one too. Here, we give you the facts about taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one

At some point in life most people have to look after someone else—whether it’s a period of intensive short-term care as a loved one recovers from an accident, begins assisted living or needs longer term care. 

"Knowing that you can help someone you love feel better can be its own reward, but care can be demanding"

Care often requires patience and optimism, as well as nursing know-how, but doctors and other medical professionals can help you with that. Having a clear idea of the way forward and the help and support of others will enable you to cope with the challenges ahead.

Understanding the care your loved one needs

Planning ahead can help make caring easier. Credit: Dragana991

You’ll be able to plan for the future much better if you consider the level of care that your loved one might require. This is something that you must discuss initially with the person’s GP, consultant or medical team. Before taking on this new responsibility, you should consider important issues, such as how full-time the care is likely to be and how becoming a carer might affect your own life.

You should also find out if back-up support will be available if you need it. This support can be in the form of free assistance, as well as financial support.

Advantages of becoming a carer for a loved one

Caring can bring you closer to your loved one. Credit: DGLimages

There many advantages to becoming a carer, for both you and your loved one.

When you work as a carer, you are less likely to worry about the care your loved one is recieving, because you can provide them with personalised care, given your intimate knowledge of them. This is much less disruptive for them also, as they are not being moved into residential care or a more formal setting, and are instead comforted by the support of someone they know. 

The do's of becoming a carer

Elderly man laughing with carer
Don't be afraid to ask for advice from professionals about caring. Credit: Imtmphoto

Involving your GP is a vital part of being a career, as they can help you access social, mental health and other services and can even offer home visits.

Social services in England and Wales, social work departments in Scotland, and health and social services trusts in Northern Ireland, can help you assess your needs. This allows them to provide financial assistance, emergency support and adaptations for your home

It's important to consider your work, when becoming a carer. Talk to your employer about reducing your working hours or organising more flexible hours for the duration of your loved one’s recovery.

Do consider how you can maintain and demonstrate respect

"Treat your loved one as a partner in care and encourage them to make decisions about their own health"

Part of showing this respect is also being able to deliver bad news and planning how you do this. Ask your GP, community nurse, counsellor or a carers’ organisation for help in delivering news such as the need to consider residential care.

Asking for help and joining a support group can be a great benefit also. For a long-term care commitment, becoming part of a support group can enable you to meet people in a similar situation. You can find information about local groups on the websites of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Carers UK

And the don'ts of becoming a carer

Woman laughing with father
Being a carer can be a lot of responsibility, but it is important to take care of yourself too. Credit: itakayuki 

Whether you feel that caring for your loved one is your duty, it’s vital to acknowledge that care not necessarily easy. As mentioned, seek help from friends and family, as well as advice from your GP and local social services. It's vital to take breaks and make time for yourself, so you don't become burned out.

"Don’t underestimate what it means to be a carer"

Also, don't miss out on financial help. The benefits system may seem complicated, but it’s worth persevering to find out what you’re entitled to. The CarersLine at Carers UK can carry out a benefits check over the phone or you can read about.

Banner Credit: family (Champpixs)

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