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New to caring? Here's some tips and advice for carers, from carers

Roxanne and KellyHave you started caring for a family member or friend?

You're not alone – each day, 6,000 people start caring. 

It can happen suddenly – a birth, an illness, an accident – or creep up slowly, unnoticed at first.

We asked carers to share their tips and advice for people who have just started caring for someone. Read them below, and to join our community of carers who understand just what it means to care, visit the Carers UK online forum.


"Recognise that you are a carer – even if you don't like the word"

I think I realised I was a carer when my husband became so ill that he had to give up work and wasn't able to cope with many daily tasks which then fell on my shoulders. 12 years on and we both still hate the word, but have recognised that accepting that label means I can get the support I need.

Recognise yourself as a carer, even if you don't like the word and its connotations. Contact Carers UK and find your local carers organisationDon't feel like you've got to do it all alone – talk to people and get support. And finally, take time out for yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup!

Rachel, who cares for her husband.


Stephen Duffin"Take things one step at a time"

For many of us caring is a whole new world. We go into it with no idea of how much information we will need to gather and absorb, that relations may be completely useless (or suddenly very busy...), that social services may or may not offer various levels of support, and that much of the long-haul, donkey work will fall on our shoulders. Take things one step at a time.

Stephen cared for his mother, Rona Yvonne Duffin.

Rona passed away on the David Erskine Ward at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 12 Feb this year. Stephen told us: "The staff on the ward were wonderful, and deserve every praise, particularly my mother's nurse, Maria Gavira."


Simon Batchelor"Keep calm"

My son has epilepsy and we have to keep calm as a family. You might be dealing with a different condition or illness to me but there will still be many times when freaking out about it is not going to help. Keep calm and carry on as the saying goes.

Simon and Lorna's son George has epilepsy.

Photo (left to right): Lorna, George, Ralph, Simon


Claire Mothers Day 2016"Be kind to yourself – it's ok to have a bad day"

Try to have a bit of me time. Find your local carers centre and find out all the support that is available to you. It’s ok to ask for support and it's ok to have a bad day.

It’s also ok to not take a doctors first opinion. Trust your gut instinct and never forget you know your loved one better than any professional.

Don’t worry if you get stressed or the person you’re caring for gets frustrated – they will feel so helpless sometimes.

Above all, remember you’re doing the best you can, sometimes with no support. Don't forget how strong you are or how many memories and fun days you're creating with your family. You will get through it.

Claire has two daughters who both have care needs.


"Prioritise, and put yourself first sometimes"

Laura ElderPrioritise! My husband cares for me, and sometimes the caring role can take over and we forget the relationship we have. Forget about the house looking untidy or a few dishes in the sink, and have a least a few minutes of enjoyment – even if it’s just sitting together with a cup of tea as husband and wife, not as carer and ill person.

And it’s ok as a carer to put yourself first sometimes. I actually quite enjoy a neighbour coming round for coffee to keep an eye on me while my husband’s out. It makes a change to chat to someone different, and everyone needs a break from caring at some point.

Laura, whose husband cares for her.


Helen Peters"Don't forget who you are and what makes you happy"

However strong you start out, it's easy to become isolated when you're caring for someone. You can get overtired, or physically and mentally exhausted. You may have nights where you cannot sleep with worries.

Don't forget who you are and what makes you happy.

For me, it's putting on Motown and soul music, or going to parks or river walks with my daughter, on her good days. I saved up to buy a camera and take amazing photos. I write poems and try to keep my mind going.Things can be tough, but I get joy in having hobbies and this has helped me cope.

Helen, who cares for her daughter and has cared for both parents. Here's a photo she took on a walk along the River Lea in Hackney.


"Be prepared to have the worst arguments and the most laughter"

Be prepared to fight for the smallest bit of help. Be prepared to lose touch with family or friends who don’t understand why you are doing this – and be prepared for people to think they know better and to tell you what you should be doing, without ever offering to actually help.

Be prepared to love more than you have ever had to love before – while doing a nurse or care workers job with little financial support, no holidays and no recognition. Be prepared to have the worst arguments and the most laughter you’ve ever had in your life while sober. And be prepared to eventually grieve like only another carer will be able to understand.

Louisa


  • If you're looking after a family member or friend, you don't have to do it alone. Be part of our supportive community and movement for change by joining Carers UK.
  • If you're new to caring and don't know where to start, try Upfront - our online guide to caring that can help you get straight to the information you need.
  • Words of support from other carers who understand what you're going through can be a lifeline. If you need to share an experience, ask a questions or get support visit the Carers UK online forum.

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