For carers, by carers: 10 savvy suggestions for those new to caring

15 Sep 17
For carers, by carers: 10 savvy suggestions for those new to caring

We’ve collected together 10 pieces of advice and information aimed at new carers who look after an adult in Derbyshire.  Many of these tips have come straight from other carers, while others have come from  health and social care professionals who work with unpaid carers every day. 
 
If you’ve just become an carer (or just realised you’re now classed as an unpaid/family carer), it's likely that you've found that looking after someone else and making sure their needs are met can be tough. Juggling time, getting the right support in place, managing finances, figuring out which organisations do what….. the challenges can seem never ending. Experienced carers have said that getting the right information and support at the right time is crucial for new carers which is why we've enlisted their help to put these tips together.
 
Please note these tips are mainly aimed at carers of adults, although some will be relevant to carers of children. We’ll look to do a similar blog for parent carers in the coming months.

1. Let your GP know you are a carer (tip from a local carer)

The NHS are keen for GP practices to keep a record of patients who are carers. This is so your practice can and let you know about schemes such as free flu jabs and other health initiatives that may benefit you as a carer.
 
Many practices will also try their best to help you with things like accessible parking or appointments times to suit you and the person you look after – this does vary from practice to practice but don’t be afraid to ask!
 
''When my wife was poorly our surgery were excellent. Not only did they make sure my wife had everything she needed, they also made sure to ask I was okay too. They gave us practical help with arranging appointments to suit us and making sure I knew about getting my flu jab.'' 
 
You can let the surgery know you’re a carer using this handy form.

2. Don't forget to look after yourself (tip from health professional)

All too often carers can let their own needs take a back seat while they are preoccupied with the health and wellbeing of the person they care for. But your health and wellbeing is equally as important as the person you look after - if you aren’t well yourself then how will you support them?
 
Make sure you know how to care safely (e.g. don't risk injuring your back through lifting incorrectly), eat as well as you can, get as much rest as you can and find out what works for you in alleviating stress
 
To help with looking after yourself, it’s advisable to get a Carers Assessment. This gives you the chance to talk to a support worker about the impact of being a carer on your life, ways of managing your caring role and help to find support services (including breaks). It’s not an assessment of how well you look after the person you care for, it’s all about helping you and is something you’re legally entitled to.
 
''The assessment is about the carers needs and focussed on how I was going to cope with caring. It was so much more supportive, focusing on ‘what can we do to help you’ rather than ‘why can’t you manage?’”

3. Get support from other carers – take advantage of the peer support available (tip from a local carer)

‘’Although there are lots of great organisations out there to support carers, I’ve found that a lot of the good advice, information and support I’ve been given has come from other carers who are in a similar situation.’’
 
Talking to other carers can be a BIG comfort. Whether it’s asking for advice on specific things or just discussing how you feel, there are loads of groups for carers as well as online forums where you can chat in confidence. It could be you want to ask what to expect when the person you look after goes into hospital for an operation, or maybe you just want to vent how tired you are. No matter what it is, there’ll be a carer support group, forum or Facebook page or that suits you.
 
Some local support groups are for unpaid carers in general while others are aimed at carers of people with specific conditions, such as dementia or mental health carers. If you look after someone with an alcohol or drug problem you might feel more comfortable talking to other carers who understand you situation.
 
If you’re a bit shy, start with an online forum or go to a group that’s for carers and the person they care for. The main thing is don’t ever suffer in silence and don’t be afraid to talk. Local groups are always wanting new members.
 
“I can share what I am going through with other family carers. Sometimes if I tell my family they think I am moaning or not coping. I just want to be able to talk with people who understand”. 

4. Make sure you’re claiming the benefits you’re entitled to – but make sure you get advice first! (tip from professional) 

If you support the person you look after for more than 35 hours a week you may be entitled to claim Carers Allowance. However if you are paid Carers Allowance it can sometimes affect certain benefits that the person you care for receives and can make them worse off. 
 
Luckily in Derbyshire we’ve got the Welfare Rights Service who can give advice on this sort of thing before you make a claim. Give them a ring on tel: 01629 531535, between 11am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday or email: welfarebenefits@derbyshire.gov.uk
 
They can also advice on all other benefit related matters and produce a range of factsheets about different benefits.
 
Carers Credit – If you’re under pension age and you don’t provide enough care to qualify for Carers Allowance, (but do provide care for more than 21 hours a week) you should look into claiming Carers Credit to make sure your state pension entitlement isn’t effected.

5. Take advantage of services to give you a break (tip from a local carer) 

If the person you look after is eligible for social care support, then you may be able to get regular respite as part of their care plan. Speak to their Adult Care worker and ask that replacement care to give you a regular break is written in their care and support plan (if eligible).
 
If the person you look after doesn’t meet the Adult Care eligibility criteria then you may be able to get a Carer Personal Budget on the back of your own needs as a carer. The Carer PB can be used to help pay for a service to give you a break – i.e paid carers or a sitting service. Or you can use it to buy something to make your life easier. An example of this would be buying a dishwasher so you can spend 15 mins relaxing with a coffee and a magazine instead of washing the pots each day! Or buying a computer to help you save time by doing tasks such as banking and paying bills online. 

6. Check the person you look after isn’t entitled to a ‘disability related expenditure’ waiver (tip from a local carer)

If the person you look after also gets support from home care services (paid carers) arranged through Derbyshire County Council and they have to contribute to the cost of that care (co-funding), you should check whether they are entitled to a Disability Related Expenditure waiver. 
 
If the person is disabled that can mean they have extra living costs, for example stair lift/hoist maintenance, disability aids, extra laundry costs, special clothing, special food due to dietary requirements and continence products not supplied by the NHS. Money spent on these things is called ‘Disability Related Expenditure (DRE)’.
 
If the person you support has a particularly high level of DRE, they may be able to get a reduction on the amount they have to contribute to their care costs (co-funding). To find out more, speak to the Financial Assessments Team on tel:  01629 532231 or the social worker of the person you care for. 
 
'If you think the person you look after qualifies for DRE, make sure you ask. Don't wait for it to be offerered.''

7. Get a good carers emergency plan (tip from social care professional)

We talked about this in our last blog but it really is important.  It takes time to make a good carer emergency plan but it’s time worth spending, as you and the person you look after will have peace of mind if something happens and you aren't able to provide care. 
 
Many local carers have signed up for a carers emergency card to put in their wallet, which is great. But many of the emergency plans linked to the cards aren’t so great. Many are out of date or have just been written in a hurry (understandable) so the plan doesn’t/wouldn’t work in a real emergency.
 
“One of the most important elements of the support I have as a carer is the contingency plan that I have in place. I know if anything happens to me there's a plan so my husband will be looked after – it’s peace of mind for me.''

8. Take advantage of free legal advice for carers (tip from a local carer)

You need information so you can make informed choices both for yourself and the person you care for, and sometimes that means taking advice from an expert. It may be you need to discuss your employment rights as a carer (if you juggle working and caring), paying care fees, Power of Attorney, the Mental Capacity Act, the Court of Protection, complaints and claims, information sharing and much more. 
 
As part of a workshop to map a typical carers journey, local carers said that they would find free face-to-face legal advice extremeley valuable. As a result Derbyshire Carers Association have teamed up with Rothera Sharp solicitors to make this a reality and offer free legal advice clinics for carers. Make sure you take advantage by booking an appointment. 

9. Don’t be afraid to have your say and get your point across! (tip from a professional)

Often when you’re caring for someone you become that person’s advocate, and you may have to help them get their voice heard. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone – it could be that you find talking to professionals about your loved one’s care really difficult. 
 
Even if you are quite confident it can be a good idea to get your thoughts clear in your head and think about what you want to say before you speak to professionals. Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust have developed a 'situation, background, assessment, recommendation and decision (SBARD)' card to help you do this. The card is written to be used before telephone calls but the same principles can before a face-to-face meeting.
 
More information you may find useful is Carers UK’s guide on self-advocacy that is about learning the skills you need to speak up for yourself and the person you care for.

10. Use our website to find the information and advice you need (tip from carers and professionals)

We don’t want to blow our own trumpet or anything….. but if you live in Derbyshire our website is THEE place to start if you want information about support for carers. That’s because the website has been created by carers and health and social care professionals, for local carers so we have a good idea of what information you need. The website is a starting point and hopes to point you in the direction of services to support you in your caring role.
 
If you want to access support for the person you care for, start by contacting Derbyshire County Council Adult Care or their GP. 

Find out more 

If you’ve got any questions about support for carers and can't find the answer on our website, please use our contact form to let us know and we’ll reply as soon as possible.

Help other carers

We’d also like to hear any tips you have for other carers. What support, information or advice have you found helpful as a carer? Please let us know and we’ll share with other carers through our website and Facebook page.