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Getting help

You're not alone

Caring for a loved one or relative can be a strain, both physically and emotionally, but knowing there are others out there sharing the same experiences can be beneficial.

It is estimated that people providing high levels of care double their own risk of becoming ill or permanently disabled as a result of their responsibilities. Worryingly, only one in four carers say they have been offered a health check by their GP.

Katherine Wilson, head of  policy and public affairs at Carers UK, says isolation is a big problem among the UK’s estimated 6.4million carers.

In some cases it can occur when people have become carers suddenly, such as when a relative has an accident and they haven't had time to arrange any support.

“Carers can become gradually more isolated. They don’t realise that they have become more detached,” says Wilson.

Giving up work

Carers are often forced to give up work completely or reduce their hours to cope with their new commitments. The problems faced by some carers only become obvious when the situation has reached a critical point, says Wilson. “Often it's the people who are caring full-time who just break down and call our helpline because they're desperate.”

Helen Brown, the chief executive of the Cambridgeshire branch of the charity Crossroads, believes there is a strong link between isolation and health. As well as the carer's local authority, she says any carer seeking help should visit their own GP.

“GPs have access to a number of solutions,” she says. “They are always a good person to talk to about any worries. No one needs to feel guilty about not being able to cope.”

It is good to let your GP know you're a carer as they will keep an eye on your wellbeing and carry out regular health checks.

“Also, include your family and friends," says Wilson. "People get stressed and worried about this but you can share your experiences with others. Additionally, many carers don't ask social services to do a carer's assessment, either because they don't know that such a review exists or they feel it would be a waste of time.

“There may be support that the local authority can give you. Also, check to find out if you're eligible for financial help,” says Wilson.

Recognise you're a carer

It is vital for carers to recognise their role. “It can take older carers up to five years to recognise that they are a carer," says Brown. "It doesn’t just happen automatically.” Making contact with voluntary organisations such as Carers UK or the Carers Trust can lead you to further support, advice and information.

If you want details of your nearest carers' centre, you can call the freephone Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053. Lines are open from 9am to 8pm weekdays and 11am to 4pm on weekends, closed bank holidays. Wilson says that those carers who prefer not to visit a carers centre can find help on online forums. “There is a lot of solidarity out there and people don’t feel that they're totally alone,” she says.

Organisations such as Carers Trust can offer respite care for a number of different situations. “People use us for a huge range of services, from personal care through to socialising with others,” says Helen Brown.

“We know from our feedback that we are making an enormous difference, particularly to those who say they can keep going because they know that someone is coming in to help them.”

Watch the video below to see how two carers were helped by their local carers' support group.

Carers' support groups

Carers' support groups help long-term carers. In this video, carers describe how their local group enabled them to care for others and for themselves.

Media last reviewed: 14/12/2012

Next review due: 14/12/2014


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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Ronnie701 said on 30 December 2013

Is there support for the carer with the application forms, reviews, assessments etc ?
I spend everyday caring for my daughter who has learning delays, mental health and physical problems as well as 2 toddlers, a rebellious teenager, a father who is in and out of hospital and a grandmother in her 90 ' s who has lost her vitality for living.
I have my own mental health and physical health problems to cope with and I have had it with companies phoning me to tell me I'm in arrears (yes dummies i know) ... They do there best, refer me to their debt sections who send me more paperwork to complete!!
I don't have the time for a ruddy bath on my own, let alone fill out paperwork that arrives and disappears in this hovel we call 'home'
Thanks for taking the time to read this ...I must run now cos someone coughed again and soiled themselves again and I'm the only one capable of cleaning things up!!

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msw said on 02 June 2012

Hi, I have been caring for my wife who has Rheumatoid Arthritis and other complications for many years now,and now find myself with C.O.P.D my doctor is absolutely useless, has been treating me for a year and does not know what for,the only medication he has given me is a few inhalers and when I asked for another a few days ago he refused,saying I needed to see him first, I dont have the time or ability to sit in a germ filled waiting room which I was told by the hospital to avoid.only to see him for 30 secs
any advice or help please?

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Page last reviewed: 13/12/2013

Next review due: 13/12/2015

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

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