What is carer

What is a carer?

Carers, Health and Social Care Blog

Care Learning

3 mins READ

They care for family, friends, or neighbours who can’t manage on their own because of illness, disability, mental health issues, or old age. Unlike paid professionals, these carers work out of love or commitment without pay. This role comes with its challenges and rewards.

Unpaid carers are essential in both personal lives and the wider health care system. They save the UK about £132 billion each year, equal to NHS England’s total cost. Their work reduces pressure on professional services.

What Do Unpaid Carers Do?

Unpaid carers have various tasks based on the needs of those they look after. Their duties often include:

  • Personal Care: Helping with bathing, dressing, and toileting.
  • Household Management: Doing shopping, cooking, and cleaning.
  • Financial Management: Taking care of bills and managing money.
  • Emotional Support: Offering comfort and psychological support.
  • Medical Care: Handling medications, arranging healthcare visits.
  • Mobility Assistance: Helping with moving around or physical therapy exercises.

Who Do They Care For?

Unpaid carers help many people:

  • Older People: Often caring for older relatives with conditions like dementia.
  • People with Disabilities: Including those with physical disabilities or sensory impairments like blindness.
  • People with Mental Health Issues: Supporting individuals facing mental health challenges such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Children with Special Needs: Parents caring for children diagnosed with autism or cerebral palsy.

Life as an Unpaid Carer

Being an unpaid carer affects life deeply. It’s rewarding but tough:

  • Emotional Strain: Worrying about someone else is stressful.
  • Physical Toll: Caring tasks can harm the carer’s health.
  • Financial Impact: Many carers can’t work full-time, leading to money problems.
  • Social Isolation: There’s less time for friends or self-care, causing loneliness.
  • Lack of Support: Finding and getting help can be hard.

Yet, many find joy and a stronger bond with those they care for.

Examples of What is a Carer

Unpaid carers come in many forms across the UK, each facing unique challenges. Let’s look at some examples to understand the variety and personal nature of their roles:

  1. Mary cares for her elderly mother: Mary is 45 years old and looks after her 76-year-old mother who has advanced Parkinson’s disease. She handles her mum’s medication, helps with daily tasks like eating and dressing, and keeps up the house. Despite working part-time, she balances her job with caring for her mum.
  2. Tom and Sarah have a child with special needs: Their 8-year-old son has severe autism. They provide constant care, including setting up a structured environment, attending therapy sessions, and managing his diet. They also work hard to learn about autism to better advocate for their son’s needs.
  3. Anita supports her husband with mental health issues: Anita is 50 years old and helps her husband deal with bipolar disorder which he has had for ten years. She manages his emotional changes, makes sure he follows his treatment plan, and deals with any challenging behaviour during his manic or depressive episodes.
  4. John is a young carer: At just 16 years old, John takes care of his mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). He helps with moving around the house, cooking meals doing household chores as well as looking after his younger siblings.
  5. Sue looks after her sister: Sue is in her thirties and cares for her older sister who has Down syndrome since their parents died. She assists with daily activities, social interactions, financial management, while holding down a full-time job ensuring that quality life standards are maintained.
  6. Evelyn aids a friend battling cancer: Evelyn, a retired nurse lends support to a friend neighbour who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer by driving medical appointments, managing post-treatment, and providing emotional support during this tough period showing how caregiving can extend beyond family ties.

These stories show us not only different types of people providing care but also highlight dedication involved being unpaid carer despite obstacles they face.

Unpaid carers are crucial in the care system. Their role is challenging, but vital. Society needs to recognise and support these key figures better. Offering more help and resources will keep them healthy and ensure they can continue their important work. Some are young carers, which can be even more challenging when they are going through education.

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