When you become a carer, your life changes irrevocably. Most commonly, this is the case when you embark on caring for elderly parents. You can guarantee that every one of our parents is going to need increased levels of help at some stage. A few of us will have no choice but to rely on outside support. But, some of us will be in the position to take them into our homes and care for them ourselves.
In many ways, this is a blessing in disguise. Being able to care for your parents yourself ensures they keep their dignity and a decent way of living. But, full-time care isn’t easy. In fact, a Carer’s Trust survey revealed that 86% carers had health issues themselves, with 67% saying these issues were directly related to their roles.
For the most part, it would be fair to say that these problems come about for two primary reasons. For one, full-time care is demanding and all-consuming. What’s more, carers often fail to look after themselves. In the study mentioned above, 57% admitted to recently cancelling their own doctor’s appointments due to caring restraints.
And, it’s easy to see why. When you’re caring so heavily for another person, it’s all too easy to take your eye off your own health ball. The good news is, there’s help out there, with more charities than ever considering the role of carers. And, by taking advantage of that, you can get back on track yourself. After all, to do the best job possible, it’s essential you’re in top health. But, what is this help, and how can you get it? Read on to find out.
The first thing to bear in mind is the financial impact of caring. Often, you’ll have no choice but to take time off work for doctor’s appointments, or because there’s no one else to take the helm. Though you’re legally within your rights to take time off to care for a dependent, this means lost money. And, that’s the last thing you need when you have that extra mouth to feed. But, you don’t have to struggle alone here. There’s all manner of financial assists you could turn to. Some worth noting include –
- Carer’s allowance. This is available to those who care for someone for over 35 hours a week. As it stands, this would involve an extra £62.70 a week, which is set to rise to £64.60 from this April.
- Attendance allowance is also worth your attention, as it’s aimed at those caring for people 65 or over. This money will be allocated to the person you’re caring for, and can range from £55.65 – £83.10 a week.
- Carer’s premium also provides the opportunity to increase the amounts of benefits you, or the person you’re caring for, already receive.
All it takes to apply is a little research and a knowledge of what you’re entitled to. The chances are that at least one of these will apply. That could make a massive difference to your life, and that of the parent you’re caring for. It’ll undoubtedly take stress off your shoulders, which can only help you provide the best care.
Often, the hardest part about a caring role like this is the mental strain it takes. It’s a difficult time, likely to be fraught with all manner of struggles. And, for the most part, you’re probably coping with that alone. Many carers find themselves in a position where they have no one to talk to about what they’re experiencing. After all, you love and want to care your parent.
But, it’s important to note that speaking to someone about your struggles is not undoing the excellent care you give. It’s important to accept that this is tough on you as well, and you can’t take it all on your shoulders. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to family members, visit your GP for a counselling referral. This is particularly important if you’re feeling anxious or overly stressed. Taking this time out to talk things through will ensure you return to your role feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges.
Help from your workplace
It’s also worth finding out what support you can get from your workplace. For the most part, this involves talking to your employer about any time off you need. It may even be worth asking if you can change shifts, or leave earlier to fulfil your caring role. In the majority of cases, all it takes to gain support like this is an honest and frank discussion with your boss. Most bosses are more than willing to accommodate for situations like these. What’s more, this open communication can be a massive help in the future. As you can see from articles like this employers guide to bereavement leave, most matters like this are at your manager’s discretion. If you keep them informed and onboard, there’s more chance that you’ll get the time you need now, and later down the line. If, however, you don’t let your boss know what’s happening, they may struggle to grasp the severity of your needs. And, that can only cause more stress for you.
Easing the burden
Remember, too, that there is help out there. You may feel a responsibility to take full-time care onto your shoulders, but you don’t have to. It’s possible to keep your parent in the family home, and still get the help of outside carers. Just having someone come in for an hour a day would make a huge difference to you. All you need to do to get help like this is contact your local carer services and let them know your situation. They’ll be able to carry out a free carer’s assessment and come to an agreement with you about what help you need. They’ll likely consider everything, from your time constraints to your parent’s needs. So, be honest about the pressures. It’s the only way to get the right help.