Do you look after someone who depends on you?
If so, you are a Carer and these Tips will help meet the challenges
TIPS FOR CARERS By Michael Hydon
These practical Tips share the things that I learnt as a Carer in looking after my wife, Julie, in the last three years of her life. They are generally applicable but should be most helpful to carers of adults with some physical disabilities. Only follow Tips that you consider will be entirely safe and appropriate to your circumstances. You will need to take strong and positive action to get things moving.
1. As caring pressures will affect you, your doctor needs to be aware of your changing situation. Make sure that you are registered as a Carer with your GP; then, update your doctor regularly on how you are managing. Practical help can be accessed by a GP making referrals to:
[a] District Nurses to set up regular home visits by one of their team to see patients. Get them to check you too!
[b] An NHS Occupational Therapist who can offer support and loan special equipment to the person for whom you care.
Doctors can also prescribe short breaks for you and be the route into other services that can help --- so do ask what is available.
2. It is crucial that you contact the Carers' Support Service covering the county in which you live, highlight your situation and find out what information / support is available. These bodies are independent of Social Services and also a local Carers' Group may be available for advice and mutual encouragement, so do enquire. Contact:
Surrey Action for Carers Surrey 0303-0401234
West Sussex Carers Support W. Sussex 0300-0288888 Hampshire Princess Royal Trust for Carers 01264-835246
Carers UK offers excellent advice through its website: https://www.carersuk.org See also: https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-resources
[which includes a guide called ‘Looking after someone’].
3. Raise your confidence level and also ability to talk to doctors by learning about the medical condition(s) involved. Get in touch with the appropriate national charity: eg British Heart Foundation, Mind, Stroke Association, Alzheimer's Society, Age UK, National Osteoporosis Society, etc. All have contact 'phone lines / web-sites with highly relevant information --- and may have a local branch or group for support [or know of one].
4. Under the Care Act 2014, Local Authorities have a number of duties to carers. Ask your Carers Support Service about those and contact Adult Social Care within your area. Request a 'Carers Assessment' for yourself and additionally get a ‘Needs Assessment’ for the person for whom you care --- they can be done at the same time. Hopefully, that should identify overall needs and ways in which you could both receive some support.
+ Adult Social Care has Occupational Therapists who can provide free equipment and may even arrange for home adaptations
+ Equipment loaned without charge may include a raised toilet seat, a bedside commode, a hoist, wheelchair or even a hospital-style electrically-operated bed
All of that will make life much easier. If the situation changes significantly, request further assessments.
5. Identify and remove any trip-hazards --- and then fit some grab-rails. Any fall can be very dangerous particularly for an older person, with the potential to break bones and shorten independent living. This is a really important Tip.
6. Review if the person for whom you care might be eligible for any financial support [such as Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance or even a reduction in Council Tax] and apply for that. Do you qualify for any financial help such as Carers Allowance and / or Universal Credit?
+ Ask your Carer Support Service and Citizens Advice what is available. Demonstrate in each application that specific eligibility criteria are satisfied --- seek help if needed to make the best case possible.
7. Find ways of reducing your work-load or making it easier.
+ Ask any other family members to give you specific help
+ Pay someone else to do regular weekly chores, such as cleaning / gardening
+ Learn how to use a laptop or tablet and then make it work for you --- get shopping delivered to the home
+ If eligible, apply for Blue Badge free parking
+ Cook in bulk and freeze some for a reheated meal later; also, try home- delivered frozen meals [eg Wiltshire] or Meals on Wheels
+ Ask a trusted friend to sit with the person for whom you care
8. Have emergency arrangements in place, particularly if the person for whom you care is vulnerable:
+ Inside the home, a two-way baby monitor and / or mobile ‘phone is useful if a bed-bound person needs to call for assistance.
+ Consider a Careline attachment to your 'phone system. The person who may need to call for help [eg after a severe fall] wears a neck pendant or wrist strap with a press button that can raise the alarm in a 24/7 call centre and call out emergency services in your absence. Alternatively, use Oysta advanced technology for security.
+ Carry a fully charged mobile 'phone so that you can be contacted and also make calls from anywhere
+ Get and carry with you a Carer's Emergency Card so that if you have an accident your nominated contacts and authorities can be alerted to arrange care
+ Install a secure Key Safe outside an external door so that emergency services [and relatives / trustworthy friends] can find a door key to enter the home --- plus register the key safe code with Careline if used.
9. For both the person for whom you care and also for yourself, arrange Lasting Powers of Attorney for both Health and Finance.
10. It is vital that you protect / preserve your own health by ensuring that you get some regular respite, relaxation and adequate sleep. Remember to take your own medication.
11. Be aware of the damage you can do to yourself trying to deliver care 24/7 on your own. Do not delay in obtaining professional help from outside agencies offering specialist services [eg nursing and end-of-life care]. Get advice and a referral from your doctor.
12. As a carer, you must look after yourself as No.1 so you are then better able to support the person who depends on you. It is all too easy to overdo things physically and emotionally --- and so get drained of energy.
13. If the situation just becomes too difficult, 'let go' and give up part of your caring role. Involve your doctor and seek external help. Encourage the person for whom you care to 'let go' also and accept fully that others will be there for them instead of just you on your own. Also, something as simple as a cuddly toy can be a comfort.
14. As you are able, relax your role as a carer and simply enjoy time in company with the person whom you are cherishing. That is very precious for both now and in the future.
These Tips for Carers form part of the outreach support offered at Haslemere Methodist Church for carers.
We hold in our prayers all carers in the community. Do call into this beautiful modernised church at Lion Green, Haslemere as you are able for some quiet time / relaxation and a chat.
© 2020 Michael Hydon [Former Carer] firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips at 4 December ’20