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Life after caring

The end of your caring role may take some time to adjust to. Having more time to yourself may give you the opportunity for a much needed rest, but it can also leave you feeling that you have a lot of time to fill.

If you are used to always having things to do, it can be hard to stop and think about what you would like to do now.

Some people find that once they are no longer caring, exhaustion – both physical and emotional – catches up with them and they may feel unwell for a while.

Some practical matters, such as making sure you are claiming the right benefits for your situation now you are no longer caring, and dealing with any changes to your housing situation (if there are any), have to be dealt with fairly quickly. However, you do not need to rush into making decisions about other aspects of your life. The following suggestions may be helpful for you if and when you feel the time is right.

Taking time for yourself

Resting and letting yourself have a break now your caring role has ended, is just as important as taking on a new endeavour.

You could see if you can take a short break somewhere, and it might be that there are grants you could apply for to help with the cost of such a break.

You could take some time for yourself just to do things you enjoy, such as reading, going for a walk, or seeing family/friends.

“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

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Access support from other former carers

You may feel isolated after many years of caring, and you might want to see if there is any support you can get from others in a similar position.

You could find out what support your local carers' organisation or local carers' group offers to former carers.

You could also speak to other former carers on the Carers UK Forum.

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Learn something new

You may wish to refresh skills that you have not used for a while, return to hobbies or interests that you have put aside, or learn something completely new.

You may have also gained new skills or interests from your caring role that you want to pursue. 

We have designed a new e-learning programme called Learning for Living which provides a helpful starting point if you are wondering what skills you've gained from caring.

The introductory course encourages you to think about how these can add value in the community or workplace, and what you can do to make the most of your skills. 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.

Taking a course can also be a great way to meet new people.

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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 can be 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.

You can look for your local volunteering centre here. The website Do-It holds many volunteer opportunities and is searchable by subject as well as postcode.

Many former carers volunteer with Carers UK. The volunteering opportunities range from events volunteers, local awareness volunteers, insight volunteers and listening support volunteers. Read more about the opportunities on offer here.

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Starting (or returning to) paid employment

If you have some spare time, and feel you are ready to take on something new, you may be interested in starting, or returning to, paid employment.

If you are not sure what you would like to do and where to begin, start by recognising the skills and interests you have. As mentioned above, our Learning for Living e-learning programme is a helpful starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed and wondering what skills you've gained from caring.

You can also think about the skills you have gained from:

  • any paid work that you have done
  • any volunteering work that you have done
  • your role as a carer

Think about your interests including:

  • what you enjoy doing
  • how you would like to use your skills
  • things you miss doing that you once did, eg from previous work or volunteering

You could have a look on some careers websites to try and identify the sort of job which might match your skills and interests.

The National Careers Service has a Skills Health Check which involves a set of quizzes and activities designed to help you explore your skills and interests. This might be useful to help you decide what job might be right for you.

Once you have identified the kind of jobs which might match your skills and interests, you could then have a look on the National Careers Service Job Profiles, which explain the skills and qualifications needed to get into that job, what the work would be like, the pay you could expect and what the careers prospects are.

Once you have identified possible jobs which might match your skills and interests, and know what is needed to try and apply for a job in that field, you could see if you could get any support with any training you might need (as well as learning new things, training could also help to build your confidence or refresh skills you used to have).

For some further information on starting work or returning to work you can see here.

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Helping to provide support to carers

Many former carers go on to become great campaigners, championing the role of carers in society, and standing up for carers' rights. They bring their valuable experiences with them, knowing without question the many challenges that carers may face.

If you want to get involved you could contact your local carer’s organisation to find out if you can help out, and/or contact us.

Your local council and health authority may also welcome the input of carers in the planning and development of services for carers in your area.

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