On Census Day 2021, there were approximately 4.7 million unpaid carers in England and 310,000 in Wales, , looking after family and friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill. The 23rd of November is Carers’ Rights Day, an important day to let all carers know that they have rights unique to them and are supported in their caring journey.
To honour Carers' Rights Day, we've collated some support information from the Carers UK's Looking After Someone guide to share with you.
As a carer, there are universal feelings that you're likely to experience from time to time, and situations that you're likely to encounter. Let's take a look at the 10 key challenges that caring might throw your way, as well as how to cope when they do...
Navigating the care maze can be an extremely complicated experience. Whether you're grappling with the benefits system, considering how to pay for care, or wondering how to deal with all the admin, turning to an expert can help lighten the load and guide the way.
When looking after someone, it's important to accept that feelings of guilt are normal and to remind yourself that you only feel it because you care. When this happens, being able to talk to people who understand what you're going through can help you to manage your feelings better.
Caring for someone will often involve dealing with several different professionals. When you feel a professional has not explained something clearly, does not see or understand the whole picture or perhaps is not helping how they should, it can be hard to speak up. However, that is exactly what you need to do. This starts with valuing yourself and your role as a carer.
Even a tricky conversation with professionals can be a breeze compared to having to deal with family and friends. You may have to ask a sibling to be more supportive, remind a friend that you still exist, or talk gently to a parent who doesn't accept that they can't live independently any longer. This takes courage, bags of patience, and tact. Talking it through with people outside the situation can make a world of difference.
As a carer, you have immediate needs such as taking breaks, getting enough sleep, eating properly and exercising. You may also have longer-term needs such as building fulfilling relationships, pursuing hobbies or developing your career. Caring always involves an element of putting your own needs aside. However, it's important that you look after yourself too, not just so that you can keep going as a carer, but because you're an individual whose needs are just as valid as those of your loved ones.
Stress can alert you to potential dangers and spur you on to achieve a goal. However, sometimes the balance tips too far and the pressure becomes so intense or persistent that you can feel unable to cope. As soon as you notice it getting too much, it's helpful to talk about how you feel, rather than hoping the stress will go away.
There will be times when you are faced with particularly emotional or difficult decisions. Sometimes it's a decision that you've already planned for, or at least held at the back of your mind. Other times, it can be completely unexpected and can leave you feeling out of control. Where you can, thinking about decisions in advance can help you to keep a cool head when the moment arrives.
Caring for your loved ones can express the best of who you are and can take a relationship to a profound new level. It can also push you to the brink through financial, emotional, and practical strain. Illness can cast aside the best-laid plans and make relationships feel utterly different. What matters most is that there's a way for you to talk honestly and find help when you need it.
Whether you're looking after someone who's recovering or whose condition is deteriorating over time, caring inevitably involves adapting to circumstances. Sometimes it's easy to focus on the practical details - the administration of care workers or move to the care home. Being able to stay attentive to our relationship with the person we're caring for in the midst of all that change is far from easy. Again, move forward with open communication and whatever resources you need close at hand.
Nothing relieves stress and tension better than a good laugh. Sometimes caring can feel a bit like starring in our own sitcom, and there's no shortage of comedy material. Other times, we may need a bit of help finding something to laugh about. Either way, sharing experiences with other carers is often great - not just for feeling listened to and understood but for finding the humour that can keep you going.
While caring can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, it can also come with its challenges. Understanding the different kinds of help that are available to you, as well as how and where to seek support is beneficial to your wellbeing.
You can find the full Looking After Someone guide here. In it, you'll find comprehensive yet easy-to-digest information regarding all aspects of caring - from funding, to managing someone's affairs, to information on benefits, your rights as a working carer, and much more!