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Practical support

Support services

There is a wide variety of services available in most areas to support the person you're looking after and yourself.

These services are provided by charities or local authorities and include the Carers Trust, which can help you with respite from caring, as well as library services, meals on wheels, continence services and laundry services.

Click on the bars below to find out more about the services available to you.

Carers Trust

As a carer you may wish to take a break from caring. Carers Trust is a charity that provides breaks for carers across England through a network of local schemes.

Carers Trust has a range of services that carers need. All the schemes offer the same range of services to allow carers to take a break while knowing that the needs of the person they look after will be well understood.

Carers Trust also has a range of activities and support to help reduce the feeling of isolation that many carers experience. Services vary depending on the local branch. You can find your local Carers Trust service online.

A care manager from Carers Trust will discuss with you:

  • the kind of help you need
  • how often you would like them to visit
  • how long you would like them to visit for
  • a suitable time for visits to take place

Other respite services available include:

  • extended care
  • hospice at home
  • overnight services
  • palliative care
  • rapid response team
  • traditional respite

Carers Trust also offers a range of support for young carers aged eight to 18 years. These include:

  • before- and after-school clubs
  • café, lunch, drop-in and tea clubs
  • daycare centres
  • holiday play schemes
  • social groups and activities

Carers Trust may also offer:

  • bereavement and moving-on services
  • carer befriending services
  • carers' centres
  • counselling
  • holistic therapies for carers
  • social activities, group outings and carers' clubs
  • training for carers
  • young carers projects

Some Carers Trust schemes also offer:

  • bathing services
  • services for people from ethnic minority groups
  • companion services
  • support to carers in employment

The services offered by each scheme vary depending on what is needed locally. Contact your local branch to find out what services they offer.
There are many ways to access Carers Trust services. Referrals can be made by carers, families of carers, your social services department, health workers and voluntary organisations.

Meals On Wheels

To help you continue caring for the person you're looking after, local authorities can provide a 'meals on wheels' or 'meals at home' service.

The meals on wheels service provides hot meals for the person you're looking after, giving you more time to concentrate on other areas of their care. The service can be arranged through your social services department. There is usually a charge.

Meals are delivered to the home of the person you're looking after. They consist of a hot meal with dessert. Some local authorities provide frozen meals which can then be heated in a microwave, giving the person you're looking after more control over when they eat. Each local authority will have its own system of providing meals.

Meals on wheels is provided following a visit to the home of the person you're looking after. The council then provides a simple 'service agreement' with details of when you will receive meals, how much they will cost and contact details for the person managing the service.

Hot meals

A hot meal service is provided if the person you're looking after is not able to prepare a hot meal for themself and there is no one else to do it for them. Hot meals can be provided every day or for an agreed number of days per week.

Frozen meals

A frozen meal service is provided if the person you're looking after or someone else is able to heat and serve a meal safely. Some local authorities will lend you a microwave in order to heat frozen meals and a small freezer to store the meals until needed. Occasionally, frozen meals are delivered in bulk to provide meals for one or two weeks.

Local authorities offer a wide range of meals, which take into account any special dietary needs of the person you're looking after. Types of meal provided include:

  • vegetarian
  • soft and puréed meals
  • meals for diabetics
  • low-fat meals
  • gluten-free meals

Many local authorities also offer culturally-appropriate menus which include the following types of meal:

  • kosher
  • halal
  • Asian vegetarian
  • Gujarati
  • Afro-Caribbean
  • Eastern European

Continence services

Continence is a problem for many people. As many as one in three people have difficulty controlling their flow of urine. Caring for someone who has incontinence problems or difficulties controlling their bowel or problems with bladder functions may have a significant emotional impact upon you as a carer.

It is quite common for people with mobility difficulties to have incidents of incontinence or leakage because it takes them longer to get to the toilet.

The person you're looking after may feel embarrassed and will need emotional as well as physical and practical support to deal with issues such as personal hygiene, loss of confidence and perhaps skin irritation.

As their carer you may be involved in helping them to:

  • get to the toilet
  • use the toilet
  • wash afterwards

If the person you're looking after has incontinence or bladder and bowel difficulties, your GP can advise you on NHS services that may help in your caring role.

Both your GP and local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) can provide support, advice and information on this issue. The primary care team includes continence advisers or specialists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and dietitians.

The continence adviser may be able to provide many small items and other equipment that can help, including:

  • plastic or PVC covers to protect beds
  • disposable or washable continence pads
  • waterproof pants

Your social services department should be able to provide small aids and adaptations for the home, including:

  • hand rails
  • commodes
  • raised toilet seats

For more information on what other services are available from your social services department, GP and CCG visit the care at home pages. For information about laundry services from your local council, see below.

There is also continence equipment that you can buy yourself. The Bladder and Bowel Foundation provides an independent directory of incontinence products. It also provides useful information and support for carers on a range of bladder and bowel-related problems, including incontinence.

Laundry services

There are many ways in which your social services department can assist you as a carer in helping the person you're looking after to remain at home.

The person you're looking after may have incontinence or bladder and bowel difficulties, which could mean you have to wash their clothing and bedding regularly.

This can be both physically demanding and emotionally draining for you as a carer (see Continence services, above). You may be able to get help with the laundry from your social services department.

Some social services departments provide a laundry service for people who have incontinence or bowel and bladder problems. In addition, some local authorities provide laundry services for those who find it difficult to manage their laundry for other reasons.

Some local authorities make a small charge for their laundry service or only launder large items such as bedding.

You will need to ask your social services department if they provide this service. Your local authority will usually carry out an assessment of your situation to work out what is the best service for you.

Library services

If neither you nor the person you're looking after are able to visit your local library, there are other ways to borrow books and other library materials.

All library services are free and many local authorities run library services for carers and housebound residents. These include:

Mobile library service

A mobile or travelling library is a purpose-built vehicle equipped to act as a mini-library on wheels. The vehicles are wheelchair-friendly and equipped with hearing loops and other accessibility aids.

Mobile libraries operate in a similar way to branch libraries. They register new members and take reservations. Many local authorities offer a regular mobile library service operating on set days.

The mobile library service has stock similar to that you would find in your local branch. This includes books, DVDs, cassettes, CDs, jigsaw puzzles and large print books. The lending material is targeted to the people who are likely to be using the service.

Many mobile and travelling library services also visit nursing and residential care homes.

Books on Wheels

This is a service offered to people who can't visit their local library and have no one who is able to go for them. The Books on Wheels service has assistants and volunteers who will deliver books and other lending material to you at home and collect it after three weeks (the usual lending period). Ask your local library if it provides a Books on Wheels service.

Having others borrow books for you

Some library services allow someone else to borrow books for you using your library card. You may need to sign a form giving permission for this to happen. However, you will have to pay overdue charges on books and library fines if the person misuses your card.

Online catalogue

Most library services now allow you to reserve books and other lending material online. You can see what stock is available and reserve it so that you can either:

  • collect it yourself from the local branch
  • borrow it from the mobile library or travelling library services
  • have someone borrow it on your behalf
  • have it delivered using Books on Wheels

If you are not sure which book you would like to read, you can use Whichbook. This free online service is part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It matches up readers with the kind of books they want to read. All the books in the database are fiction and poetry in paperback, written in or translated into English and published since 1995.

The UK Public Libraries network also has an independent online link to all libraries in the UK.

Caring for carers

Anne Roberts of the charity Crossroads explains the help that's available for carers. Please note that since this video was published Crossroads has become Carers trust and Anne Roberts is no longer the Chief executive of the organisation.

Media last reviewed: 14/12/2012

Next review due: 14/12/2014


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Page last reviewed: 11/12/2013

Next review due: 11/12/2015

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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