What is the impact of being a family carer?
As the elderly population rises and local authorities are under financial pressure, more and more people are finding that they are not eligible for funded care and support services.
The role of the unpaid carer is vastly important in our current society, usually a role that is performed by a family member. According to Carers Trust, unpaid carers save the UK £87 billion in care costs – although further estimates put that figure close to £119 billion – and the current system would be unsustainable without them.
However, being an unpaid carer can have a huge impact on your daily life and mental health. The Care Act, which came into force in April, outlined the duties of local authorities in supporting carers and providing specific services to help them cope both practically and emotionally. However, a recent report showed that few councils have outlined their specific strategies for providing and delivering these duties.
There are many issues that affect these unpaid carers. Often it is the children of elderly people that provide care and support, which has to be juggled with work and children of their own. This can lead to burnout and stress, trying to balance the many different roles in their lives. Many unpaid carers feel that they need to be around full time and then it’s a difficult decision as to whether they can afford to give up work, or have to change jobs to be more available in the day.
It is therefore important that carers know their rights and entitlements. There is a lot of help out there, mainly from charities and support services, informing you of things like flexible working hours through your employers, benefits available, respite care and more.
It is not just practical support that carers need; often there is a huge emotional toll and there are services available to help in that respect too. For example, the Counseling Directory has a section dedicated to carer support, which outlines the key issues faced by carers and has links to find counseling and psychotherapy in your area.
On 20 November 2015 it is Carers Rights Day, which brings together organisations and individuals to help raise awareness of the UK’s unpaid cares, inform them of their rights and let carers know where they can obtain care and support.
If you are a family carer, then make sure that you know what you are entitled to. Also, it is worth staying informed of all of your care and support options, as there may be things that you haven’t thought of, or as an elderly person develops more serious care needs, the local authority could help with funding for a paid carer, for example.