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Disability - Caring for older relatives

NHS Choices Feature

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Caring for an older disabled relative can have practical, financial and emotional challenges. But you're not alone.

There's lots of information and advice for carers in Carers Direct: practical guide to caring.

Alex Fox, assistant director of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, answers questions on where to find practical and emotional support.

I've just started to care for an older relative. What's the first step to getting help?

Contact your local council to apply for a carer's assessment. You can find out more about how to do this in the  Carers Direct page on getting assessed.

As a carer, you're entitled to an assessment of your needs. This is called a carer's assessment, and it identifies the help that you need to care for your relative properly. This is separate from the community care assessment (section 47 assessment), which evaluates your relative's needs.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers has a national network of more than 100 carers' centres that can help. These centres offer a range of services, from information and advice, to emotional support, to education and training. You can find your local centre on its website.

What is evaluated at a carer's assessment?

The carer's assessment is not about how good you are at caring. It assesses how much support you need.

When you're filling in an assessment, be realistic about what your relative's needs are. Think about the days when their needs are most severe. Don't feel shy or underestimate the amount of support that your relative needs, otherwise you may end up getting inadequate support.

As a result of the carer's assessment, someone may be sent to help you with the personal care of your relative, which will enable you to take short breaks from caring. You may also receive help with home adaptations and emotional support.

What is a section 47 assessment?

The section 47 assessment is a community care assessment of the support that your older relative needs. This is also called a health and social care assessment. It's carried out by your local social services department.

You may be entitled to help with caring for your relative, making home adaptations, getting specialist equipment and taking short breaks from your caring role.

Local authorities have their own policies on charging for the support that they provide based on the assessment.

My relative wants to continue living in her own home but needs some extra help to do this. What support is available to her?

Your relative may be eligible for home help. This usually means that a visitor will come to their home in the morning and during the evening.

The type of help available varies across local authorities. It also depends on your relative's mobility and how easily they perform personal care tasks, such as getting up, getting dressed and cooking a meal.

You can learn more at the Carers Direct page on benefits for the person you care for.

My older relative is moving into our home. What help is available to us?

When your relative lives with you, this doesn't affect your eligibility for support. You're still entitled to a carer's assessment and the support that may result from it. Take a look at this video on caring for a parent at home.

We're struggling to afford the costs of being carers. Are we entitled to financial help?

If you're aged between 16 and 65 and caring for 35 hours a week or more, you may be able to claim carer's allowance.

Where can I find emotional support?

There are carers' centres in most areas and these can offer ongoing emotional support and advice. Staff will explain your options to you.

The centres also run groups for carers who want to meet other people in the same situation. They'll organise activities and social events for carers, who say they often feel isolated. The support and friendship of other carers can be important in helping you to cope in your caring role.

How can I arrange a short break from caring?

Caring is physically and emotionally demanding, so taking short breaks is important.

Learn more about how to arrange short breaks from caring, and your entitlement to them, at the Carers Direct page on time off.

Charities such as Crossroads and Help the Hospices also provide breaks for carers.

Medical Review: January 20, 2012

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