Are you a carer?
If you look after your partner, or a relative or friend who is ill or disabled, you are a carer, even if you don’t think of yourself that way.
There are many ways that you might care for someone.
For instance you might:
- be on hand 24 hours a day to provide care
- arrange hospital appointments for someone
- drop round each day to keep someone company or cook their dinner
- visit a relative who lives far away once a month to see how they’re doing.
Whether you’ve cared for the person for a long time, are temporarily helping them (for example, while they recuperate from an operation), or have just become a carer, take time to review your options and find out what support is available to you.
For information and advice download the guide Advice for carers (PDF 983 kb)
Your rights as a carer
Carers have certain rights, and it's important that you know what these are. Don’t overlook your own needs as a carer: making time for yourself is crucial to your own health and wellbeing.
You're entitled to a carer’s assessment if you regularly provide a substantial amount of care for someone, regardless of whether the person you care for is having their needs assessed. Contact your local social services department to request one.
Before your carer’s assessment think carefully about how your caring role affects you and what would help you manage better.
During the assessment, you’ll have a chance to talk about the care you provide and the impact it has on your life. The assessor will look at the support you get and whether other services could help you. They’ll also advise you on any benefits you’re entitled to and other sources of help.
Following the assessment, you’ll get a letter describing the support you could get and who will provide it.
Carers Direct have detailed advice on preparing for a carer’s assessment.
The main benefit you may be entitled to as a carer is Carer’s Allowance. To qualify you must spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person.
Protect your State Pension
If you care for someone for at least 20 hours per week, you could get Carer’s Credit. This helps build to build your entitlement to basic and additional State Pension.
Carer’s Credit is a weekly National Insurance credit for carers that you will automatically get if you receive Carer’s Allowance. If not, apply by calling the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0845 608 4321.
Your rights at work
If you're working as well as caring for someone, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements to help you fulfil your responsibilities.
You can make one request for flexible working each year. Your employer must consider it but does not have to agree to it.
If social services carries out a care assessment for the person you care for your views will also be taken into consideration when deciding how best to support them.
You may also be able to receive assistance from social services - for example practical help at home, help with taxi fares, counselling to deal with stress and information about local support groups.
Visit the Carers Trust or check your local authority’s website to find out what services are available in your area.
If you have any concerns about the support that either you or the person you care for is receiving, you have a right to complain to the local authority that is providing the service, or the Care Quality Commission.
Find out more about the steps that you should take to resolve any concerns you have.
Support with caring
Caring for someone can be a big responsibility but support is available.
If you qualify for Carer’s Allowance this should give you some extra money to ease the financial strains of caring.
Depending on the outcome of your carer’s assessment, you may be eligible for a direct payment from your local authority, also known as a carer’s personal budget.
This is a cash payment that enables you to pay for something that has been identified to help you in your caring role – for example, to pay for respite care, or for membership to a club that gives you time away from your caring role.
If the person you care for has been assessed as needing help from social services, they may be eligible for a personal budget, which should be enough to pay for their care and support needs.
Telecare is assistive technology that can help the person you care for remain independent at home and reassure you that they’re safe when you’re not there. Examples include devices that can detect if someone’s fallen, had a seizure, left the gas on, or is trying to leave the house unsupervised.
Even if you have family and friends around you, they might not understand the strain of being a carer. Carers’ groups can be a good way to get support from other carers who understand what you’re going through, and can share their own experiences.
The Carers UK website has an online forum where you can talk to other people in similar circumstances. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, you may find it useful to talk to other dementia carers through the Alzheimer’s Society online forum.
Other sources of support
There is practical and emotional support available for you and the person you care for. Make sure you request the help you’re entitled to, even if you have to be persistent when asking for it.
If you care for someone with dementia, Admiral Nurses are specialists who aim to improve the quality of life for both you and the person you care for. Dementia UK has a helpline staffed by Admiral Nurses who can provide practical advice and emotional support.
Contact your local Age UK to find out what help is available in your area.
Having a break
If you’re a full-time carer or spend a lot of time caring for someone, it's important to make time for yourself, too – both for the sake of your own health and wellbeing and to give you the energy to carry on caring.
Having a break doesn’t mean you are letting down the person you care for. It's sensible to have time to rest, catch up with friends and pursue your own interests.
Respite care is the term used for replacement services which enable you to take a break from caring.
This can include a range of things, such as employing someone to sit with the person you care for, cook for them, take them to a day centre, or arranging temporary residential care.
If your assessment or the assessment for the person you care for shows you need respite care, the local council should provide it.
You might be able to get financial support from the council to help you take a break, but respite services are means-tested so you or the person you care for may have to contribute towards the cost.
Alternatively, there are some benevolent funds and charities that may be able to help you with the costs.
Your Carer’s Allowance when you have a break
If you have time off from caring, there are special rules to decide whether you’ll continue to receive Carer’s Allowance. The basic rule is that you can continue to receive your Carer’s Allowance for up to four weeks in any six-month period if you have a break from caring.
However, the rules are complicated, so you should get specialist advice from the Carer’s Allowance Unit by calling 0845 608 4321.
If you’re receiving any other benefits which include extra amounts for caring, these may be affected if you have a break from caring.
Your changing relationship
When you become a carer for someone it can be difficult to know how to deal with your changing relationship with them.
In the early stages of caring for someone you should try to keep things as normal as possible and carry on doing things you both enjoy. Try to do things with the person, rather than for them, so that they stay involved in daily household life and don’t feel like you’re patronising them. They may still be able to complete tasks, but just need a little more time.
As the person’s condition deteriorates you may find that your relationship changes with them even more, and this is especially true if you’re caring for someone with dementia.
If you’re caring for a partner you may find yourself feeling more like a parent than a spouse. The Alzheimer’s Society factsheet Sex and dementia looks at ways in which people can adapt their relationship so that they remain loving and close to their partner.
Looking after yourself
When you’re caring for someone it’s easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and manage better with your caring role.
Tell your GP you’re a carer, and discuss the impact this is having on your own health. They will be able to offer you advice and support, and you may be entitled to additional health services such as a free annual flu jab if the person you care for has a serious or ongoing health problem.
Although it can be difficult, try to make sure that you eat healthily, stay active and get enough sleep. The Carewell website has some useful tips.
Don’t feel like you need to do everything yourself. If you have relatives who live nearby, try to be honest with them if you need a hand or want to share the responsibility.
Read our healthy eating advice for more ideas on staying well.
Don’t overlook your emotional health. Family and friends, carers’ groups , your GP or counsellor, or organisations like Samaritans can all provide you with space to talk about how you’re feeling.
If you care for someone with dementia, it can be hard to share any feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger with them, leaving you feeling isolated. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and remember there’s no right or wrong way to feel.
Your social life
It’s a good idea to take up a hobby or activity, such as going to an exercise group or an evening class, if you can. Taking part in an activity you enjoy will give you the opportunity to do something for yourself – it’s important that you have your own interests and make time to pursue them where you can.
Your local library can provide information about social activities, events, education and courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) can also tell you about courses in your area.
When your caring role changes
Your caring role may change over time. The person’s condition may deteriorate and they may require more support than you have the time or energy to give.
If this happens, you should ask their local social services department to assess or reassess their care needs, and ask for a carer’s assessment for yourself. Both you and the person you look after may be entitled to extra support.
If it’s no longer possible for you to give the person the care they need, it might be best for both of you if they consider moving into a care home. However, make sure you have considered all the other housing options first.
You might feel guilty suggesting a move to a care home, but if the person’s needs are overwhelming you it is only sensible to find an alternative, more sustainable way for them to get the care they need.
When caring ends
There may also come a time when your caring role comes to an end, either because the person you were caring for has moved into a care home or because they have died.
This could be an emotional time, and you may experience feelings of guilt, grief, emptiness or loneliness, as well as relief at getting your life back.
If someone close to you dies and you were their carer, losing them could have an especially big impact on you and there may be many adjustments to make. Read about coping with bereavement.
Your finances when caring ends
There might also be a financial impact. If the person goes into a care home, they will stop getting disability benefits after 28 days, and you will stop getting Carer’s Allowance.
If you are receiving any Carer Premium on your other benefits, this will continue for an extra eight weeks after your Carer’s Allowance stops.
If the person you cared for has died, you will continue to get Carer’s Allowance for up to eight weeks after their death. It might be a good time to have a benefits check as your entitlement to other benefits may change.