Practical ways to support yourself as a voluntary carer
The pressure of caring for an older relative can build up and sometimes feel overwhelming – especially if you’re juggling work and care commitments.
A growing number of people are turning to Google to find support in caring. New research from Seniorcare by Lottie has found a surge in online searches from carers across the UK who look after an elderly parent.
Over the last 12 months, more carers turned to Google to seek support with their caregiving duties, with some astonishing growth in queries, including:
- 1375% more searches for ‘trapped caring for elderly parent uk’
- 86% more searches for ‘caring for my elderly mother is killing me’
- 25% more searches on for ‘carers in the workplace’ and ‘working carers’
There’s real concern that voluntary carers are at risk of developing stress, anxiety, burnout and depression, so if you’re a caregiver, it’s important that you take care of your mental health and well-being.
We asked Will Donnelly, Care Expert and Co-Founder of Lottie, to suggest some practical ways you can look after yourself as a caregiver by knowing where to find help. Here’s what he said.
Open up about how you’re feeling
It’s important to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust, especially if you’re struggling.
Sharing your feelings with family members or friends can help you to feel supported. Together you may be able to discuss different options of support that may be helpful in managing your caring responsibilities.
Share the workload if you can
Taking on too much responsibility may result in you feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Try to be realistic about what you can and can’t do by yourself. You could try writing a list of all the support your loved one requires and break this down by what you are able to do alone and where you need help. Then you are ready to discuss this with a family member.
Remember it’s fine to ask for support if you’re struggling.
Find support beyond the family
Caring for a loved one can be rewarding but challenging, so it’s important to be able to turn to a support network, especially if family are unable to help.
Joining a local support group for carers can help you to feel connected to others in similar situations. It may also give you access to fresh ideas around information and support services. There are many support groups for carers available across the UK. If you search online for Carers UK and Age UK you’ll find local groups in your or your parent’s area.
Seek support from your local council
As a carer you are entitled to a carers assessment through the social services available with your local authority. A carers assessment will evaluate how your caring responsibilities impact your life, including your physical and mental health to other factors such as work, maintaining relationships and socialising.
Following the assessment, you may be eligible for additional services to support you as a carer or to the person you care for to help you manage any caregiving responsibilities. A carers assessment will provide you with additional information on the support available to you as a carer through your local council.
Make your employer aware of your caregiving responsibilities
Juggling work and caregiving responsibilities can be a lot to handle all at one time. If you’re struggling to balance your commitments, talk to your employer as they may be able to offer practical support.
For example, you may be eligible for flexible working hours, which can reduce the stress of juggling caregiving responsibilities and managing your workload. Flexible working can range from changing your working hours, working compressed hours, job sharing or even working remotely. So, it’s important to discuss with your employer how flexible working options may work for you both.
Learn about other financial aid available
Caring for someone you love can lead to money worries, especially if you have had to give up your career or reduce your working hours. However, you may be able to claim financial support from your local authority.
Following a carers assessment with your local council, you may be eligible for a carer’s personal budget – Carer’s Allowance. Similarly, you may also be entitled to financial support for additional care services to meet your loved ones needs.
Create an emergency plan
If your loved one becomes unwell, creating an emergency plan can help to put any anxiety or worries at ease.
Put together a list of important information, such as the personal details of your loved one, who should be contacted if there is an emergency, details of any medication, and GP contact information. This will come in handy if you’re ever unable to care for your relative, or they need emergency medical care.
It’s a good idea to share a copy of an emergency care plan with family members and medical professionals, as well as reviewing and updating the plan regularly.
Practise stress management techniques
Caregiving can be a rewarding but challenging role. If you start to feel overwhelmed by the pressures of caregiving responsibilities it is important to find stress management techniques that work for you.
One of the fastest ways to calm down if you’re feeling stressed is to practise mindfulness. Try to take slow deep breaths and focus on the present. Focusing on your breathing helps your body to destress and alleviate anxiety. Regular exercising and talking to someone you trust are also practical stress management techniques.
For further thoughts on caring for older family and friends, take a look at some of our other articles:
- When families can’t agree on care
- Tips for caring from a distance
- Ask Lesley – advice to real life caring issues