Looking after someone?

Could you be a carer?
Do you look after somebody who couldn’t manage without you?

A carer is someone who provides support to family or friends who could not manage without this help. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems. All the care they give is unpaid.

Anyone can become a carer. Carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation; looking after their mother, son, or best friend and just getting on with it.

Carers don’t choose to become carers: it just happens and they have to get on with it.  If they did not do it, who would? And what would happen to the person they care for?
Many carers don’t see themselves as carers. It takes carers an average of two years to acknowledge their role as a carer. It can be difficult for them to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person they care for.

Caring can have a big impact on your life, and this is only likely to increase as time goes by.  Even if you are managing now, don’t put off asking for help. Find out what support is available now — don’t wait until your situation reaches a crisis point.

Different kinds of caring
Carers experience many different caring situations. A carer could be someone looking after a new baby with a disability or caring for an elderly parent, someone supporting a partner with a substance misuse or mental health problem. A carer may be looking after someone at long distance, may be caring for more than one person, or caring for a neighbour or friend. A carer may have just started caring for someone, either because they’ve suddenly become ill or they’ve needed more care over time.

Despite these differing caring roles, all carers share some basic needs: they need access to information, financial support and breaks in caring.

Although there are some issues that affect most carers, caring for someone with certain conditions can bring its own particular set of practical and emotional challenges and concerns.

To find out more about the condition of the person you care for, go to NHS Health A-Z. These pages can give you information about the condition, its symptoms, recommended treatments, how the condition will develop and whether there may be complications.

For more information about caring for someone with a specific condition see the NHS Carers Direct website. This includes information on caring for someone with: dementia, mental illness, arthritis, a drug problem, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or who is terminally ill.