Being a carer for a family member: Everything you need to know

Being a carer for a family member: Everything you need to know

 · 5 min read

Becoming a carer for your family member may seem straightforward. But there can be a lot to consider: How many hours do you care for your relative? What support are you entitled to as a carer? It’s essential to know as much as possible so you can be the best carer for your loved one.

  • Being a carer means giving over 35 hours a week of essential care and support to someone who needs it.
  • Carers can apply for financial support called carer’s allowance, but getting it depends on various factors, including savings and current earnings.
  • Carers can be assessed for their own needs to ensure they can undertake their caring role safely.
  • Caring is rewarding but can be hard at times, so carers must look after their physical and mental health.

Caring for loved ones: FAQs

  • How much is carer’s allowance?

    Currently, carer’s allowance is up to £67.50 per week if you care for the individual for more than 35 hours a week. A benefits calculator can help you see what you may be entitled to.

  • How do I claim carer’s allowance?

    You can make a claim for carer’s allowance via GOV.UK or by post. You will need supporting documentation to hand about yourself and the individual you are claiming for.

  • How do I get support for my family member?

    You can request a needs assessment in which your loved one’s care needs will be assessed by social services. You can get more support through local support groups or charities in your area.

  • What support can I get as a carer?

    A carer’s assessment may suggest support in the form of paid carers to give you a break, or money towards transport for appointments or moving equipment.

  • Who will be involved in my loved one’s care?

    Depending on your loved one’s needs, it’s likely that a range of professionals will be involved in your loved one’s care. This will include their GP, social workers, occupational therapists, district nurses, or paid carers.

  • How to best care for a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic?

    Your loved one may be quite vulnerable, but you take some simple steps to keep you and them safe. Ensure you’re up to date with all Covid-19 and flu vaccinations and follow the healthcare advice set out by NHS England.

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If you’re undertaking caring responsibilities or providing support to your family member, you’re a carer. To be considered for income support as a carer, you need to be providing more than 35 hours a week of full-time support or care for your loved one. This support can include:

  • Assisting with personal care, including bathing or dressing
  • Supporting with taking medication or taking them to appointments
  • Keeping the individual company or offering emotional support
  • Doing shopping and running errands

The person you’re providing care for doesn’t have to be a relative; it can be a friend, neighbour, or work colleague. The vital distinction is the amount of time you spend caring for them.

Getting your loved one’s caring needs assessed

If your role as a carer is likely to become long-term due to a loved one’s progressing old age or health condition, you should have them assessed by social services. Social care workers will undertake a needs assessment to determine what can be done to improve the quality of their life and ensure their safety.

A social worker or an occupational therapist can undertake a needs assessment. They can make a range of recommendations, including: 

  • Making adaptations to the home
  • Getting help from paid carers
  • Providing moving and handling equipment
  • Offering access to clubs or day centres

Anyone over the age of 18 can request a needs assessment. You can apply for an assessment on behalf of your loved one by contacting your local council or online through the government website.

Getting financial support as a carer

Depending on your current income, whether you claim any benefits or draw from a pension, you may be entitled to some financial support from the government. This benefit is called a carer’s allowance. In all of the UK, the carer’s allowance is currently £67.50 per week and is paid monthly. If more than one person is caring for an individual, only one carer can claim the carer’s allowance. You can apply for carer’s allowance through the government website or by post. In Scotland, carers receive an additional benefit called Carer’s Allowance Supplement twice a year.

You will need supporting documentation about yourself, such as your National Insurance number, income from employment or a state pension, and information about the individual you are caring for.

The person you care for must be in receipt of a benefit such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment for you to qualify for carer’s allowance. You can backdate your claim by three months if you have been a carer for a while.

What is a carer’s assessment?

A carer’s assessment is undertaken by social services to recommend support services to help you in your caring role. This assessment is free and available to anyone over 18. You can request a carer’s assessment through your local council. The support recommended could include extra help from paid carers or respite care for your loved one so that you can have a break.

Understanding capacity and consent

In an ideal world, a family member will fully consent to someone being their carer. However, conditions such as dementia can make it difficult for individuals to make informed decisions around their care. Under the Mental Capacity Act, all adults are assumed to have capacity unless proven otherwise. Those who are impaired may struggle with remembering information, understanding it, and using it to make a decision. Their ability to communicate that decision can be impaired as well.

If you feel that your relative cannot consent to the care you offer or does not have the capacity for it, you can speak to your GP or social worker about this matter. A capacity assessment can be arranged to determine whether your relative can make decisions regarding their care. Following this, the individual needs to be involved as much as possible around their care, even if it’s to make simple decisions on dressing or meal selection.

Lasting power of attorney and Court of Protection

Lasting power of attorney is a legal document that appoints specific people to make decisions on behalf of an individual if they lose capacity. There are two distinct types covering health and welfare and property and finances. One or both types can be made for an individual. Power of attorney is typically put in place whilst individuals can make advance decisions about their future care or affairs.

A deputyship order from the Court of Protection acts similarly to a lasting power of attorney, but it is typically created after an individual has lost their capacity. Family members and carers can apply for a deputyship order, which allows them to make decisions on behalf of their loved one.

Both of these approaches involve the legal rights of your loved one, so it’s essential to consult a solicitor.

Other avenues of care

Whilst you may be keen to do a lot of the caring yourself, there are other options for the short and long term. Day centres and groups provide structured activities for your loved one, as well as offering you a break. Short-term respite can be organised, which can be funded through social care or by your family member. In the long term, it’s essential to look at whether a residential home or care home is a suitable option if your loved one’s condition becomes too much to manage.

It’s essential to look after yourself, too

Being a carer is rewarding but also stressful. If you’re not looking after yourself, it can impact your ability to care for your loved one. So, it’s important to recognise when you need help and take time to get extra support for yourself.

By looking after your physical and mental health, you can ensure that you’re in the best condition to continue being a fantastic care provider.

Many organisations and charities support carers in the form of telephone or local support groups. As a carer, you carry a lot of responsibility, which can impact your mental health. Practising mindfulness, eating a balanced diet, taking regular movement, connecting with friends, engaging in hobbies, and going to support groups can help you stay on top of your mental health as a carer. In addition, there are many carer support helplines available such as Carers UK. In addition, the Carers Trust is an excellent resource.

Being a carer is a great act of love and kindness, so remember to consider your own needs as well. It can be easy to become isolated, so ensure that you stay in touch with friends and have a good support network.

Victoria McDonagh
Victoria McDonagh
Victoria joined Age Group in 2020. While she has many years of writing about finance topics, she is also a trained nurse and has extensive knowledge and experience of mental health and wellbeing issues. She enjoys writing novels and short stories in her free time and spending long afternoons reading with her cat.
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