Looking after yourself and getting support
Caring for someone can be physically and emotionally demanding. It’s important to look after yourself, as well as the person you care for.
Being aware of the first signs of stress, and planning how to deal with them, can help you.
You may want to:
have a general health check with your doctor
make a list of activities you like doing and schedule in some time each week to enjoy one or two of them
spend time away from the house and/or person you’re caring for. There are organisations that offer help to carers.
To help look after yourself emotionally, you may wish to:
talk to other carers in similar situations, perhaps at a support group – Carers UK can help you find a group in your area
ask the hospital or GP surgery for information that will help you manage the emotional challenges of caring
talk to the nurses at the hospital where your partner, relative or friend is being treated
look at some of the organisations and websites that offer practical and emotional support for carers.
Time for yourself
Remember that no one will expect you to do everything.
You’ll need space and time for yourself to help you cope with the demands of being a carer.
One of the most important times to schedule time off from work is when the person you’re caring for is well so you can have some time to yourself. Try to make this a priority as it will be good for both of you.
You may find it helpful to read our information about theemotional effects of cancer.
Support from social services
The person you care for has a right to a community care assessment from their local social services, social work department or health and social care trust. This is to see whether they have a need for social care services.
If you’re looking after someone on a regular and substantial basis, you also have a right to a carer’s assessment. This can be an opportunity to speak with a social worker about any help you need with caring, as well as what help you might need to keep yourself healthy. You might also discuss how to balance caring with your life, work and family commitments.
You may want to talk about:
any housing issues you may have
your own health and the health of the person you care for
the amount of time you spend caring and how you feel about it
any equipment you may need to help you continue to support the person, such as a wheelchair, commode or hoist
how caring is affecting your relationships
how you would deal with emergencies
your concerns for the future.
During a carer’s assessment, the social worker will discuss your concerns about your paid work. You should mention any problems you have in balancing working with caring.
When available, support from social services can be very helpful. For example, you could ask for a paid care worker to visit the person you care for at different times of the day, or days of the week, to fit in with a flexible working arrangement you may have.
There are set criteria about who is eligible for social services.
If your needs, and those of the person you care for, meet these criteria, these services must be provided.
A financial assessment will also be carried out to decide whether or not you would need to contribute to the cost of the service. As a carer, you should be assessed on your own resources and earnings, not those of the person you care for.
If you’ve been assessed as having a need for social services, you may be entitled to get direct payments from your local authority. These payments are also sometimes called individual budget/personal budget payments. This means that you are given payments to organise care services yourself, rather than the local social services organising and paying for them for you.
You can also have help with how you go about getting the care services if you are struggling with this. You should discuss this with social services when they agree to your payment.
If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can get information about direct payments and individual budgets from gov.uk (in the disabled people section), or from your local authority.
If you live in Northern Ireland, visit nidirect.gov.uk (see the caring for someone section).
Help from social services for the person you’re caring for can include:
help at home – for example, to get them up in the morning, cook them a meal or help with their personal hygiene and care needs
access to a meal or, in some circumstances, help to prepare them a meal
day care services
aids and equipment
Carers’ services can be anything that will help you in your caring role or maintain your own health and well-being while caring.
This can include:
respite care to give you a break
counselling to deal with emotional issues
help from local voluntary organisations, for example support groups and benefit checks.
Having cancer can be expensive for both you and the person you’re caring for. There can be extra costs, such as travel to hospital, and your income may fall if you have to give up work or reduce your hours. However, there is help available, such as benefits, tax credits and grants. This includes help to meet NHS costs, such as travel for hospital treatment, prescriptions, wigs, dental treatment, and glasses and sight tests.
Carer’s Allowance is a weekly benefit that helps people who look after someone with substantial care needs.
You may be eligible if you’re caring for someone who’s receiving one of the following benefits:
You need to be aged 16 or over and be caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week to qualify for Carer’s Allowance.
You don’t need to be related to or living with the person you care for. You can be working, but there’s a weekly earnings limit of £100 a week (after certain deductions). You can’t claim Carer’s Allowance if you’re studying for 21 hours a week or more. Students and carers who don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance may be able to protect their State Pension entitlement by applying for Carer’s Credit (see below).
If you’re awarded Carer’s Allowance, you may also be entitled to the Carer Premium. This is an extra payment that can be added to certain other benefits.
Carer’s Credit can benefit carers who aren’t entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance.
Carer’s Credit is a national insurance credit for carers of working age. It helps carers build up qualifying years for the basic State Pension and additional State Pension, so there are no gaps in your national insurance record if you’re taking on caring responsibilities. It isn’t a cash benefit. These credits can also count if you ever need to claim towards bereavement benefits.
For more information about benefits you may be entitled to, call the Macmillan Support Line.