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Getting started with caring

After a loved one becomes ill, you may take on the role of carer suddenly, with little time to prepare.

Alternatively, the process may be gradual with you assuming the role of carer over a longer period of time.

Caring for a loved one

Care may be long-term, for example if you're caring for a child or an adult with a long-term (chronic) condition or disability. Or it may be relatively short-term.

Whatever your situation as a carer, it can be difficult to accept and establish your new role and find help and answers for your care concerns. Here is some general advice on where carers can seek advice and which organisations can help with care services.

Caring for a relative is not straightforward as an individual's care needs can develop slowly or change rapidly. Every carer's experience is different so it can be hard to know how to prepare.

Tip 1: Be prepared

Talk to your loved ones about their care long before they require it. As a son or daughter to elderly parents you may want to discuss care options with them when they retire, even if they're healthy.

Have a conversation to find out what they would like to happen if they needed care. Would they want home health care, to move in with you, to live on their own in an assisted living community or move in to a residential care home? It may not be an easy conversation but taking time to discuss and agree a person's care needs early on ensures every viewpoint is considered and a care plan can be formulated in advance. It can be difficult to discuss these things. Either bite the bullet or perhaps raise it little and often.

Tip 2: Look for carers' guidance

Becoming a carer will generate lots of questions, especially around how you care for another person. You'll need help in getting these answers, and a good place to start is with your GP. Your doctor can offer advice on practical and medical aspects of caring as well as being a gateway to further help or information, either through social services or other medical services.

Tip 3: Get support

As soon as you can, try to connect with other carers. Support groups are a great place to seek advice as well offering a place for you to talk through any concerns and receive encouragement and empathy from others. You can access support groups online or via a local charity.

Tip 4: Find help

Don't wait until you're completely overwhelmed with caring to ask for help. Start by talking to other family members and friends about how they can share with caring, both now and in the future.

Look into the type of care help you might be entitled to receive by contacting your local authority and requesting a carer's assessment through social services. A carer's assessment is your legal right and social services will use this assessment to identify what services are available to help you carry out your care duties and assist the person you care for.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can offer independent, confidential advice on many aspects of caring, including financial benefits and carers' assessments.

Many volunteer organisations both local and national provide care services for free, such as befriending schemes or help with day-to-day care requirements.

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