When your caring responsibilities come to an end, it can be hard to know what to do next. Having more time to yourself may give you the opportunity for a much-needed rest, but it can also leave you feeling a bit lost and uncertain, with time on your hands to fill. We share some ideas on how to take some practical steps forward and gain perspective for the next chapter of your life.
Seeing how you feel
If you are used to always thinking about someone else or others, it can be hard to stop and think about what you would like to do now for yourself.
Some people find that once they are no longer caring, exhaustion – both physical and emotional – catches up with them and they can feel unwell or run down for a while.
Some practical matters have to be dealt with fairly quickly, such as making sure you are claiming the right benefits for your situation now you are no longer caring, and dealing with possible changes to your housing situation. However, you do not need to rush into making decisions about other aspects of your life. The following suggestions may be helpful if and when the time feels right.
Resting and letting yourself have a break now that your caring responsibilities have ended, could be just as important as taking on a new endeavour.
You could look into taking a short break somewhere. Just taking some time out just for yourself to relax and enjoy hobbies such as reading, going for a walk, or seeing family or friends may be all you need to recharge your batteries.
Yesterday, Dad died. I know life will be hectic for the next few weeks. So, today, I did something I've never done before. I have sat in my garden all day and done absolutely nothing. I didn't read or listen to music; I just sat and reflected." Anon – Forum user
You may wish to do a course, return to hobbies or interests that you have put aside, or learn something completely new.
Through your caring experiences, you may have also gained new skills or interests that you want to develop further.
Our Carers UK e-learning programmes can provide a helpful starting point if you are wondering what skills you've gained from caring.
For example, the introductory course Learning for Living encourages you to identify what skills you have and learn how they can add value in the community or workplace. It covers everything from communicating effectively to goal setting and includes a wide range of scenarios to suit people in different situations.
You could also contact your local library or adult education centre to find out about courses or training in your area. Many local and community colleges offer evening and part-time courses in a broad range of subjects, from courses to help you retrain for employment to those purely for interest and enjoyment. Many of these will also be available online. Taking a course can also be a good way to meet new people with similar interests.
You may feel isolated after many years of caring, and wonder if there is any support you can get from others in a similar position who have been through similar challenges in life with caring.
You could find out what support your local carers’ organisation or local carers’ group offers to former carers. See our local directory.
You could also speak to other former carers on the Carers UK Forum.
If you have some spare time, and feel you are ready to take on something new, you may be interested in volunteering.
As well as offering much needed help to local people or organisations, volunteering can be a very social activity, and a good way to meet new people.
Volunteering opportunities can range from befriending older or disabled people, offering your skills to a local charity (for example, administration, fundraising, legal advice etc.), to helping out on a local conservation project.
Many former carers volunteer with Carers UK. The volunteering opportunities range from events volunteers, local awareness volunteers, insight volunteers and listening support volunteers.
With more available time, you may be considering the possibility of starting a new job or career. This may seem like an exciting but daunting prospect. You may feel a bit rusty or that you don’t have the latest digital know-how, but don’t let any doubts hold you back.
If you are unsure what you would like to do and where to begin, a good place to start is by recognising the skills and interests you have. Our Learning for Living e-learning programme offers a helpful introduction with techniques to create goals and understand what skills you've gained from caring.
You could also consider the skills you have gained from:
- any paid work that you have done
- any volunteering work that you have done.
We have more tips and career advice in our Work and Career section, including training course recommendations.