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Savvy suggestions

We asked experienced carers and health professionals for their top tips for anyone in a caring role.

They said:

Let your GP know you're a carer

The NHS are keen for GP practices to keep a record of patients who are carers. This is so your GP can let you know about free flu jabs and other health initiatives that may benefit you as a carer. 

Many practices also try their best to help you with things like accessible parking or appointment times to suit you and the person you look after, so don't be afraid to ask!

"When my wife was poorly our surgery were excellent. Not only did they make sure my wife had everything she needed, they also made sure to ask I was okay too. They gave us practical help with arranging appointments to suit us and making sure I knew about getting my flu jab."

Don't forget to look after yourself

Your health and wellbeing is just as important as the health and wellbeing of the person you look after. You need to be well yourself if you're looking after someone else.

Make sure you know how to care safely, such as lifting things correctly. Eat healthily, get as much rest as you can, and find out what works for you to help reduce stress.

Get a carers assessment

It's a good idea to have a carers assessment. This gives you the chance to talk to a support worker about the impact of being a carer on your life. It'll look at ways of managing your caring role and will help to find support services, including breaks. It's not an assessment of how well you look after the person you care for, it's all about helping you and it's something you're legally entitled to.

"The assessment is about the carers needs and focussed on how I was going to cope with caring. It was so much more supportive, focusing on 'what can we do to help you' rather than 'why can't you manage?'"

Get support from other carers – take advantage of the peer support available

"Although there are lots of great organisations out there to support carers, I've found that a lot of the good advice, information and support I've been given has come from other carers who are in a similar situation."

Talking to other carers can be a big comfort. Whether it's asking for advice on specific things or just discussing how you feel. It could be that you want to ask what to expect when the person you look after goes into hospital for an operation, or maybe you just want to vent how tired you are. No matter what it is, there'll be a carer support group, forum or Facebook group to suit you.

Some local support groups are for unpaid carers in general while others are aimed at carers of people with specific conditions, such as dementia, cancer or ill mental health. If you look after someone with an alcohol or drug problem, for instance, you might feel more comfortable talking to other carers who understand you situation.

If you're a bit shy, you could start with an online forum or go to a group that's for carers and the person they care for. The main thing is don't ever suffer in silence and don't be afraid to talk. Local groups are always looking for new members.

"I can't share what I am going through with other family carers. Sometimes if I tell my family they think I am moaning or not coping. I just want to be able to talk with people who understand." 

Make sure you're claiming the benefits you’re entitled to – but make sure you get advice first!

If you support the person you look after for more than 35 hours a week you may be entitled to claim Carers Allowance. However, if you're paid Carers Allowance it can sometimes affect certain benefits that the person you care for receives, and can make them worse off.

Welfare rights service

In Derbyshire we've got the welfare rights service who can give advice on this sort of thing before you make a claim. They can also advise you on other benefit related matters, and they produce a range of factsheets.

Give them a ring on tel: 01629 531535, between 11am and 4pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or you can email:

BetterOff Derbyshire will also show you the benefits you're entitled to and will help you to apply for them online.

Carers Credit

If you're under pension age and you don't provide enough care to qualify for Carers Allowance, (but do provide care for more than 21 hours a week) you should look into claiming Carers Credit to make sure your state pension entitlement isn't affected.

Take advantage of services to give you a break

If the person you look after is eligible for social care support, then you may be able to get regular respite as part of their care plan. Speak to their adult care worker and ask that replacement care to give you a regular break is written in their care and support plan (if eligible).

If the person you look after doesn’t meet the adult care eligibility criteria then you may be able to get a Carer Personal Budget if eligible following a Carers Assessment. This can be used to help for you to have a break or respite in the form of a hobby. You could also use it to buy something to make your life easier.

Check if the person you look after is entitled to a 'disability related expenditure' waiver

If the person you look after also gets support from home care services (paid carers) or attends a day centre that we have arranged, and they have to contribute to the cost of that care (co-funding), you should check whether they are entitled to a Disability Related Expenditure waiver.

If the person is disabled that can mean they have extra living costs, such as stairlift maintenance costs, disability aids, extra laundry costs, special clothing, special food, or continence products not supplied by the NHS. Money spent on these things is called 'Disability Related Expenditure (DRE)'.

If the person you support has a particularly high level of DRE, they may be able to get a reduction on the amount they have to contribute to their care costs (co-funding). To find out more, speak to us on tel:  01629 532231 or the social worker of the person you care for.

"If you think the person you look after qualifies for DRE, make sure you ask. Don't wait for it to be offered."

Get a good carers emergency plan

It takes time to make a good carer emergency plan but it's time worth spending, as you and the person you look after will have peace of mind if something happens and you aren't able to provide care.

Many local carers have signed up for a carers emergency card to put in their wallet, which is great. But many of the emergency plans linked to the cards aren't so great. Many are out of date or have understandably written in a hurry so the plan doesn't or wouldn't work in a real emergency.

Carers UK has information on planning for an emergency situation as a carer.

"One of the most important elements of the support I have as a carer is the contingency plan that I have in place. I know if anything happens to me there's a plan so my husband will be looked after – it's peace of mind for me."

Take advantage of free legal advice for carers

You need information so you can make informed choices both for yourself and the person you care for, and sometimes that means taking advice from an expert. It may be you need to discuss your employment rights as a carer (if you juggle working and caring), paying care fees, Power of Attorney, the Mental Capacity Act, the Court of Protection, complaints and claims, information sharing and much more.

As part of a workshop to map a typical carers journey, local carers said that they would find free face-to-face legal advice extremely valuable. As a result Derbyshire Carers Association have teamed up with Ashton Bond Gigg solicitors, to make this a reality and offer free legal advice clinics for carers.

Make sure you take advantage by booking an appointment.

Don't be afraid to have your say and get your point across

Often, when you're caring for someone you become that person's advocate, and you may have to help them get their voice heard. This doesn't come naturally to everyone – it could be that you find talking to professionals about your loved one's care really difficult.

Even if you're quite confident it can be a good idea to get your thoughts clear in your head and think about what you want to say before you speak to professionals. Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust have developed a 'situation, background, assessment, recommendation and decision (SBARD)' card to help you do this.

The card is written to be used before telephone calls, but the same principles can work before a face-to-face meeting.

Something else you may find useful is Carers UK's guide on self-advocacy which is about learning the skills you need to speak up for yourself and the person you care for.