1. Accept the term Carer. Many people feel that they are a mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister etc. and reject the term Carer. Many are simply unaware that the term has some significance. Understanding that you can be both a parent or sibling or friend and a Carer is crucial in accessing help and support. It’s the term that is used and in order to get the information and advice you’ll need.
2. Using the “Carer” label look for local services using your favorite search tool. There will be many local services and your main problem will be in deciding which organisations to contact rather than in finding any.
3. Register as a Carer with your GP. This should mean that you get additional support such as more flexible appointments and you GP should be alert for signs of anxiety, depression or fatigue. Also depending on your role, you might need to get authority to discuss the medical conditions affecting the person you care for. You might need to apply for a “Lasting Power of Attorney” that lets you make medical and financial decisions if the person you care for is unable to make their own choices.
4. Consider the financial implications of Caring. Do you need to stop working? Do you need to make a claim for benefits? Should you apply for Carers Allowance? Can you apply for Continuing Health Care? Should you apply for Direct Payments? There are lots of services that offer help and advice and it’s important that you’re aware of all your options.
5. Contact Social Services. Carmarthenshire County Council offers all sorts of help to people in need. There are Domiciliary Care Workers who can help provide assistance, there are 3rd party providers who may be funded, in whole or in part by the Council. There are Childrens Services, Adult Services, it’s a big list.
6. Ask for a Carers Assessment. A Carers Assessment is your opportunity to make sure you get whatever help and support you need to sustain your Caring role. Even though you have decided to be a Carer you should always remember it’s a choice. You can stop Caring at any time. This sounds harsh but what it means is that you have needs and rights of your own. You have statutory rights, Human Rights and Carers Rights. It’s all to easy to lose sight of the fact that you have a right to a life outside of caring. Education, work, socialising, hobbies, holidays and many other activities should not be closed off to you because you are a Carer. The Local Authority and the Health Board have a duty to try and enable you to carry on as much as possible with a normal life.
7. Find groups in your area (preferably) that have information to share with you. You are not unique in finding yourself in the position of being a Carer and many people have been through the very same process you are experiencing. You can use online tools like Forums, or Groups on social media sites like Facebook to chat with other Carers and seek advice. The Carmarthenshire Carers Information Service helps to put people in contact with other Carers. Information is crucial to Carers and one of the best places to get information is via a network of peers who will also become friends. Many groups have local meetings, talking to other Carers is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
8. Look after yourself. It’s all too easy to forget to maintain your own health and wellbeing. You matter too. If you aren’t feeling well and strong then that isn’t good for you or good for the person or people you care for. Depending on the issue you might need counseling or medical help or practical support. All of these are available and you should try to recognise when you need help and ask for it.
9. You’ll need to develop some special qualities as a Carer. Apart from the love and support you give to the person you care for you’ll need to learn new skills and abilities. Very often you’ll need to put forward a case to someone to get something you want, so determination, patience, persistence, communication and resilience are necessary. Sometimes you’ll need help so you may need to have advocacy services where someone stands alongside you to make sure you are getting what you are entitled to. You’ll also need to be aware of procedures for lodging complaints or seeking a re-assessment when you don’t get what you need. This might be via and in-house system, an outside arbiter like an ombudsman or even through solicitors.
10.Undoubtedly Caring will change you. It will make you stronger. You’ll be more capable. You’ll be an excellent multitasker who can juggle numerous jobs simultaneously. You’ll become an expert in the conditions affecting the person you care for. You’ll change gradually in so many ways that you won’t notice them all. It’s amazing how often people will tell you that Carers suffer from stress, anxiety and depression but they fail to mention the positive benefits of Caring. Never forget that what you are doing is helping the person/people you love, society as a whole and very often you.