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Understanding carers

Understanding carers

A carer is anybody who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty or disability. All the care they give is unpaid.

Many carers don't see themselves as carers. It takes carers an average of two years to acknowledge their role as a carer. It can be difficult for carers to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person they care for, whether they are a parent, son, daughter, sibling or friend. For more information see What is a carer?

Why carers need your support

The responsibilities and demands of being a carer can often mean that carers overlook their own health and wellbeing. Carers need good sources of help, support and information as they are often focused solely with the health and wellbeing of the person they care for.

Many people do not see themselves as carers. They simply may think of themselves as a friend or family of the person they care for. It is because of this that they often don’t realise there is help available to them as well. Such help could include:

Informing carers of the help they may be entitled to can be a great relief to them. Getting the contact details of your local social services or local authority for a carer can be one major stepping stone for them to get the help and support they need.

Health and wellbeing

Some carers can suffer from poor health because of the demands of their caring role. For example, back pain can result from lifting or moving the person being cared for. It may also be difficult to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine while caring. Without the right support, being a carer can be an extremely stressful role.

One of the best ways that carers can get help is for their needs to be assessed by the local authority. A carer’s assessment enables the carer and the local authority to see what support is necessary for the carer.

You could also help by finding out information and guidance on caring and discuss this with or pass it on to the carers you know. This may help them to relieve some of the pressures of trying to juggle caring with running their day-to-day lives.

There is a lot of information available to carers, but they may not be aware of where to find it. Here are some sources of information and support for carers:

You can find contact details for local and national carers support services in our directory of local carers' services. You can access this online using the postcode search on the right hand side of the page. Alternatively, you can call the Carers Direct helpline on 0808 802 0202 and ask one of our advisors for details of appropriate support.

You could also contact local carers organisations asking them to send any leaflets, pamphlets or posters they may have to display in your place of work.

The Carers Direct website also provides information on how to keep healthy and look after yourself if you are a carer. It also has information on how carers can stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

Working with carers

About one in ten people is a carer. If you work, you are likely to be working alongside carers. If you are an employer or work in a personnel or human resources department, you need to be aware of the rights carers have in the workplace. To find out more about carers at work see carers in the workplace.

Carers Direct also has information if you deal with carers as part of your role at work. We have information that can help:

 Click on the bar below to find out more about carers' rights.

Carers' rights

Knowing their rights can empower carers to get the support they need for their day-to-day lives.

Such rights could include:

  • the right to have their needs assessed by the local authority
  • the right to receive direct payments so that they can chose what services to have
  • their rights in the workplace

Further information on these rights can be found in our guide to carers’ rights.


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Last reviewed: 07/10/2011

Next review due: 07/10/2013

Call Carers Direct on 0808 802 0202

Free, confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Calls are free from UK landlines and mobiles or you can request a free call back.

You can also ask for a call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

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