What does it mean to be a carer?
3 in 5 of us will become one at some point in our lives, joining the 6.5 million in the UK, but many people don’t realise that’s what they are. If asked, they might describe themselves as just helping out, being a good neighbour, partner, family member, friend.
As 1 in 4 of us are likely to develop mental health issues each year, it’s unsurprising that many – 1 in 4, in fact – of these carers are looking after someone experiencing mental health difficulties.
So, what does it mean to be a carer of someone with mental health difficulties?
It can mean being the voice on the end of the phone every time your friend goes through a bad patch, the person who comes around and makes a cup of tea, does the washing up and tidies up a little bit so the place isn’t so bad.
It can mean being the person who helps their partner out of bed in the morning, who gives them their medication, cooks their food, and keeps them safe all day until it’s time to go back to bed.
It can mean taking an hour out of your week, or 50 – or more. But even if you only help out a relatively small amount of time, it can have a large impact on your life in a number of ways, especially if you already have other responsibilities like parenting and working. This article takes a look at some of the ways caring can affect you, and the ways you can access support and information.
Am I a carer?
A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.
The Carers Trust definition of a carer
This can mean providing emotional support either in person or by phone or over the internet, making doctor’s appointments, managing paperwork or financial matters.
It can mean providing personal care at home helping someone to eat and bathe, or helping someone get around.
It can mean keeping an eye on someone to make sure they are safe, and motivating them to do things.
It can mean looking after someone else even if you are disabled or have mental health difficulties yourself.
It can mean looking after your spouse, your child, your friend, family member or neighbour.
It can mean looking after your parents or a sibling when you’re still a child yourself.
It can mean looking after someone a lot when they are unwell, and much less when they are doing better.
Caring can look like a lot of different things, but as long as you are providing some kind of unpaid care, you are a carer.
The 5 ways to wellbeing
As we consider the ways you can manage your wellbeing as a carer, it may be worth bearing in mind the 5 ways to wellbeing. This is an evidence-based approach to wellbeing which offers a simple guide to improving and maintaining your emotional and physical health. The 5 ways to wellbeing are:
- Connect with others
- Get active
- Keep learning
- Give to others
- Take notice
Can you think of ways to apply the 5 ways to wellbeing in your own life as a carer?
Caring can affect you emotionally
Looking after someone who is experiencing mental health difficulties can be upsetting and mentally exhausting. Caring can also be very isolating – if you spend your time looking after someone else it may not leave you much time for your hobbies, friends, and relationships, and it can be hard to find people who understand what you’re experiencing.
If you would like some support with these issues there are several options available to you:
Support from other carers
Some people find it useful to connect with other carers, who may be in similar situations. If you’re interested in this, you have several options:
- Changes Ahead – Changes Ahead organise a support group for mental health carers, as well as offering one on one support, and regular social events. You can contact them on 07511 858722 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Carers Centre – The Carers Centre offer a range of support to carers, including several different support groups. You can find more information on the website, or by contacting them on 01273 746222.
- Amaze Support Groups – Amaze run a number of support groups for parents of children with SEN or disabilities.
- Mill View Carers Support Group – A support group for carers of people who use acute mental health services in Brighton and Hove meets in Mill View Hospital on the first Friday of every month. For more information contact Nick McMaster on 01273 621984 ext 2440 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Mental health support groups – Support groups for people with specific mental health diagnoses, such as Bipolar Disorder, are often open to carers of people with these issues as well. You can look for a support group on our online directory of local services.
Some people find counselling and talk therapy can be useful for improving and maintaining their mental wellbeing.
For information on what kinds of therapy there are, and how they work, take a look on National Mind’s Website.
Your doctor can refer you to the Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service, which offers free counselling and therapy. If you don’t want to see your GP you can request counselling yourself by filling out a form on the website.
There are also a number of other services in Brighton and Hove that provide free or low-cost talking therapies.
If caring is affecting your relationships, you may find relationship counselling helpful. Relate offers up to 8 sessions of relationship counselling free to carers aged 18 or over.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that many people find helpful to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Studies have also found it can be useful for treating a range of conditions, including depression and anxiety. You can find out more about mindfulness here.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a form of therapy which combines mindfulness with Cognitive Therapy. You can find out more about how to try MBCT in the above article, but some ways to access it are:
- Preston Park Recovery Centre – Preston Park Recovery Centre offers several Mindfulness-based courses, including an MBCT course specifically for carers. These courses are free, and you can apply by filling out a registration form, or ask your GP to refer you. Find out more on their website, or contact them on 01273 565049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service – The Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service offers a free MBCT course to anyone in Brighton and Hove aged 18 years or over. You can ask your GP to refer you, or you can use the referral form on the website. For more information, or to request a self-referral form, call 0300 002 0060, or e-mail email@example.com
- Carer’s Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy – 10 week MBCT course funded by the NHS and the Council for carers who have had a carer’s assessment and are eligible for funded services. To find out more, contact Adult Social Care on 01273 295555.
Caring can affect your health
Caring for someone else can make it easy to let your own health slip, and many carers find it can have an impact on their mental health. There are steps you can take to prevent or reduce these issues, though:
Informing your GP
If you let your GP know you are a carer, this can be noted on your medical records. If they know you are a carer, your doctors may be able to provide you with advice and support.
Respite care and holidays
Respite care is when someone takes over your caring duties for a short period – anything from a matter of hours to days – to allow you to take a break. Sometimes respite care involves someone coming to your house to provide care, or it can involve the person you care for going to stay somewhere that provides residential care.
Most free or low cost respite care is provided through the council, or the mental health team:
The person you care for will need to be assessed, either by their Mental Health Team or Brighton and Hove City Council, to determine if they are eligible for social care. You can also request a Carers Assessment by the council, to see if you are eligible for support as a carer.
If you are both eligible for support, then the mental health team or the council may be able to advise you on respite services you can access. How much you are charged (if at all) depends on the financial situation of the person you care for, but you may be able to get funding to pay for these services, either through the Carers Grant, or a charitable grant, or occasionally the council will provide funding through Direct Payments or Personal Budgets.
Some respite options you may be able to access if you are a carer include:
- Age UK – Age UK provides a free ‘Crisis Service’ for people over the age of 50. This is for emergencies, and is usually for a maximum of 7 days. This service offers support through short visits and telephone calls, to help with things such as shopping, light meals, low-level personal care and light household tasks. You can contact Age UK on 01903 731 800 at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Amaze – Amaze provides some details of respite options for carers of children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities on their website, or you can contact them on 01273 772289 or at email@example.com.
- Emergency Back-Up Scheme – The Emergency Back-Up Scheme may be able to provide free home-based care at short notice for up to 48 hours in emergencies if you cannot look after the person you care for, and cannot arrange replacement care. See the website for more information.
- Charitable grants – Some charities provide grants for people in specific circumstances. Some of these grants may enable you to pay for respite care, or for a holiday. You can search for grants on Turn2us.
You may also pay for respite services directly from care providers, but the charges for these can vary significantly.
Rethink offer more information on how to access respite care on their website, or you can contact them on 0300 5000 927.
Healthy diet and staying active
When you’re focussing on looking after someone else, it can be easy to let your own health slip. You can find information and tips on eating well on the NHS website or take a look at this booklet on Food and Mood from National Mind. Although it’s not always easy to find the time, making sure you stay active can help keep your physical and mental health on track. Our page on the 5 ways to wellbeing has some suggestions for ways to get active in Brighton and Hove. You may find it useful to allocate a space each week that is just for you, for personal hobbies and activities, where you can relax, have fun with friends, and take time off from being a carer for a little while.
The Carers’ Card offers discounts on a range of leisure, health and wellbeing-related activities across the city, intended to help you to look after your own health and wellbeing.
You are entitled to a Carers’ Card if:
- support a child or adult who could not manage without this help
- not receive payment for supporting this person
- support someone who lives in Brighton & Hove
If you think you may be eligible, complete the web form at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/adult-social-care/carers-card-apply-card
Caring can affect you financially
Caring can have a financial impact, if you have to reduce the hours you work, or pay out a little more in travel costs, or food bills. Mind in Brighton and Hove are unable to offer financial advice, but there are several ways of accessing financial support as a carer in the UK, and organisations who offer advice and support in accessing financial assistance.
If caring for an adult has a significant impact on your life you can request a Carers Assessment from the council. This is separate from any assessment of the person you care for. This is an assessment to see what help and support you may need as a carer, and you can do this even if the person you care for refuses assistance for themselves.
Once you have had a Carers Assessment, the council may be able to help you access a range of support. The council will take the finances of the person you care for into account when deciding how much they will charge for these services. You may be able to access financial support for these services through a Carers Grant (see below), or a charitable grant. In some cases, you may be able to receive the money directly, in order to purchase the service yourself – this is known as direct payments.
If you are caring for an adult, you can request a Carers Assessment by contacting Adult Social Care on 01273 295555, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or filling out the online application form here.
If you are caring for a child, you can contact the Children’s Disability Service for an assessment for your entire family, at Seaside View Child Development Centre, on 01273 265825. There is also a leaflet and further information on their website.
Carers Grant and Charitable Grants
A Carers Grant is a one-off sum of money paid to carers by the council. This money is not a loan – you do not have to pay it back. Not everyone is entitled to this money – carers are assessed by the council to see if they are eligible. The money is intended to support you as a carer, and is intended to be flexible, as each person has individual needs.
Charitable Grants are grants offered by charities. You can find more information on these grants and how to apply from the Carers Centre.
Carers Allowance and other benefits
There is an allowance paid by the government to some full-time carers, called Carers Allowance. There are other benefits you may be eligible for as well. Mind in Brighton and Hove does not offer benefits advice. However, we can signpost you to other organisations who may be able to help, such as:
- Brighton and Hove City Council offer a benefits advice service by appointment and drop-in – for more information contact them on 01273 292000 (Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm).
- The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) offer a Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 882200, or you can contact the Brighton and Hove Jobcentre Plus on 0845 604 3719.
- The Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project offer a drop-in welfare advice surgery Tues – Thurs. For further information contact them on 01273 671213 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Brighton Citizens Advice Bureau offer appointments and a drop-in service, as well as advice by e-mail here. For further information contact them on 01273 223951.
- Brighton Women’s Centre offer an appointment-only Welfare Benefits Surgery on Mondays 12.30pm-3pm. For more information or to make an appointment contact them on 01273 698036 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Brighton and Hove Unemployed TUC Workers Centre offer advice and support with benefits by appointment only. For further information contact them on 01273 540717 or e-mail email@example.com
- Age UK Brighton and Hove offer advice and support with benefit applications to people over 50. For advice, contact them on their local advice line: 01273 720603 (Mon – Fri 10am-4pm), or their national advice line: 0800 169 6565 (Open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year). Alternatively you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Youth Advice Centre offer advice to 13-25 years olds through their drop-in 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday. For further information, contact them on 01273 624432 or e-mail email@example.com
Feel free to contact us if you would like to know about other services that may be able to help, or take a look at our online directory.
Money and Debt advice
If you are struggling with money and debt because of your caring responsibilities, then there are some services who offer advice and support:
- National Debtline – this service offers advice and information on debt issues. They have factsheets on their website, as well as offering live webchat, and a telephone helpline: 0808 8084000 (open Monday to Friday 9am – 8pm).
- Step Change – this is a national service offering advice and information on debt and money. They have an online debt remedy tool, as well as a telephone helpline – 0800 138 1111 (open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-4pm).
- Christians against Poverty (CAP) Brighton and Hove – this service is available to everyone, regardless of faith and religion. They offer debt counselling at your home, or a local centre or church. They can liaise with your creditors and provide practical support to manage your debt. They also run a range of money courses in Brighton and Hove. For further information, contact them on 0800 328 0006 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to contact us if you would like to know about other services that may be able to help, or take a look at our online directory.
Your rights as a carer
As a carer, you have certain legal rights. We have covered some of these already (the right to a Carers Assessment, the right to Direct Payments in some circumstances, and the right to Carers Allowance and other benefits if you meet criteria) but you also have the right to equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations at work. You can find more information on your rights as a carers from the carers rights guide 2014-2015 [pdf] and the Carers UK factsheet on Assessments and the Care ActAssessments and the Care Act.
There are several organisations that offer support to carers in Brighton and Hove:
- The Carers’ Centre – this organisation offers support and information to unpaid carers in the city of all ages. They offer a range of services, including advocacy, activities, access to the Carers Garden and support groups. for further information see their website, or contact them on 01273 746222 or at email@example.com
- Changes Ahead – Changes Ahead is a voluntary organisation that supports carers of people experiencing mental health difficulties. This service offers both individual and/or group support including practical advice, social events and an advocacy service. For more information, call 07511 858722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Young Carers’ Project – This project is for children and young people aged 8 – 25 years old who have regular caring responsibilities for family members who have an illness or a disability. They provide support and advice, run activities and groups and work with schools to raise awareness about young carers. For further information, contact them on 01273 746222 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Sussex Mental Healthline – The Sussex Mental Healthline is a telephone service available 24/7 offering support and information to anyone experiencing mental health problems including stress, anxiety and depression. The service is also available to carers and healthcare professionals. You can contact them on 0800 0309 500 (freephone) or 0300 5000 101.
There are several national services who provide helplines for carers, as well as online advice and information:
- Carers UK – There is information on their website, and you can contact them by phone or e-mail for advice and information, or call their listening service on Mondays and Tuesdays to talk about how your caring situation is making you feel. They also have an online forum. Contact them on 0808 808 7777 Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm. Note: listening service available Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9am to 7pm. Alternatively you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Carers.org – Carers.org offer a large range of information on their website for carers, as well as discussion boards for carers to support each other. See the website for further information.
- SANE – SANE runs a national, out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. They are open every day of the year from 6pm to 11pm on 0300 304 7000 or email email@example.com. They also run a Textcare service, which may be able to offer extra support when you need it, and have a support forum.
- Samaritans – Samaritans provide confidential emotional support to anyone who needs to talk. They offer support to people who are suicidal or despairing, but you can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how large or small the issue; you don’t have to be suicidal. You can contact them on 116 123, free from mobiles and landlines, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (Or contact Samaritans local branch on 01273 772277 ). Alternatively you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Funding Caring – Funding Caring offers detailed advice and information on the financial help available to assist with the costs of caring for an elderly and/or disabled relative. See the website for further information.
- FirstStop National Advice Line – Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) is a national charity which aims to help older people make informed choices about meeting their housing and care needs. Their helpline offers advice and information for older people, their families and carers about accommodation, care options and related financial matters and rights in later life. They can be contacted on 0800 377 7070 (mobiles/overseas: +44 203 519 6002) Monday – Friday from 9am-5pm, or e-mailed at email@example.com.
There are several other national services for carers of people with specific mental health difficulties, such as anxiety, or OCD. Feel free to contact us if you would like to know about other services that may be able to help, or take a look at our online directory.
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Need more advice?
If you are a carer, or think you may be a carer, and would like to discuss the options available to you, feel free to contact our Advice and Information team on 01273 66 69 50, firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form below.