Q. So what does it mean to be a carer and specifically an unpaid family/friend carer?
A. The term “carer” is quite generally used in society and can mean someone who is a paid professional and maybe works in a care home or for an agency.
We define it as people who provide unpaid care for family, friends, neighbours etc. not healthcare professionals!
Q. Can you give me an example?
A. As we mention in the information you just saw, every situation is unique for family friend carers: age, who they care for, the reason for the care, financial resources and care they provide, all vary.
It could be a young adult carer looking after a parent with a mental health challenge.
Maybe someone looking after their partner with cancer or a neighbour looking after another neighbour who requires additional support due to frailty and older age.
Q. So how does this affect people?
A. It can be life changing. A caring role can happen overnight or be a gradual progression.
For example, caring for a person after an accident or stroke has different initial requirements compared to looking after someone with dementia or frailty due to age.
Q. Do carers have to live with the person they help?
Not at all. They might even live in a different city.
They may also be managing their own health conditions.
Carers may become vulnerable as caring can be stressful and lead to a risk of illness. Some other ways they can be impacted include:
Being isolated from friends and social events.
They will probably suffer a negative financial impact.
Almost certainly they have less personal freedom because of the support they provide.
Q. So does everyone think of caring as a role and get help?
A. Absolutely not.
It can take a while for someone to realise they have a caring role, it is not unusual to hear carers say,
‘I am just looking after my wife’, or ‘She is my mum and so I want to look after her’.
A caring role can mean very different things and it is important to also understand that there are sometimes cultural expectations and worries that carers may have about seeking support.
Q. So carers roles are not all the same?
Carers experiences are unique even though there might be similarities.
What one may be able to manage another may find incredibly challenging.
For example, someone in full time work may not have the time to support the person they help go to appointments.
A carer may feel they will be judged on their caring role or even that the person they care for will be removed.
Q. So how could we sum up the term unpaid family/friend carer?
A. It’s probably easiest to think about impact: if you help another person to live their life and that begins to prevent you from being able to do things in your life that are important and support your wellbeing, then you may want to think about accessing support.
Q. What support?
A. Well, the Care Act 2014 says that carers have a right to have their own needs assessed by the local authority. This is separate from any assessment of the person being helped.
There is no legal requirement for people to take on a care role but anyone who thinks they might be a carer can call us or complete our online referral and we will carry out a free assessment with them. If they need greater support, we will refer them to BHCC for a full assessment.
Q. I’ve heard about Carers Allowance?
A. There is an allowance that some carers can claim but they are still seen as an unpaid carer.
Q. What about if someone is working as well as caring?
A. For working carers and employers, there are resources that are available which have been created by Carers UK.
The Digital Resource for Carers is available to any carer in Brighton and Hove. You can get details from the Carers Centre.
Here at the Carers Centre, we also have fact sheets and other information for working carers and a specialist working carer lead.