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.
Anyone could be a carer – a 15-year-old girl looking after a parent with an alcohol problem, a 40-year-old man caring for his partner who has terminal cancer, or an 80-year-old woman looking after her husband who has Alzheimer's disease.
How does caring affect your life?
Although for many carers, caring can have positive and rewarding aspects, there are lots of reasons why caring can also leave you needing support.
Caring can have an impact on many aspects of your life — below we cover some of these topics, and how and where you can access support and information.
Money and benefits
- Caring can lead to poverty if you have to give up work to care or are managing on benefits. The aid and equipment needed to help care can add an extra drain on tight finances.
- Carers in poverty will not be able to afford do the things that many of us take for granted, such as buying new or warm clothes, heating the house, house repairs, going on holiday or a short break, running a car or paying a bus fare.
- Becoming a carer can feel like a constant battle to access help for you and the person you care for, for example getting the right diagnosis for your child's condition, appropriate support at school for a young carer in your family, adaptations to the home, and benefits and other financial help.
Make sure you claim any benefits and credits that you, and the person you care for, are entitled to.
Health and wellbeing
- Caring can make you physically exhausted – you might be getting up several times in the night as well as caring throughout the day. You might need to lift and support an adult who is a lot heavier than you. You might be juggling caring with looking after the rest of your family and holding down a job.
- Caring can leave you emotionally exhausted because of the strain of seeing someone you care about experiencing pain, distress or discomfort.
- Caring can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues.
- Caring can affect your relationship with your partner or other family members.
- If you are caring in a couple you may no longer be able to have the physical or emotional life you had together, nor enjoy shared activities or plan for a future together.
Getting out and about
- Caring can be isolating as you may find you can rarely leave the house.
- It may be hard to sustain friendships or develop new ones or keep up with interests and activities you may have previously enjoyed.
- Find local care and carer services near you.
Find your local carer service
Working and learning
- Young carers can find it hard to go to school/college/university or keep up with course work. They can be bullied and find it difficult to make or keep friends. They can take on responsibilities well beyond their years and have little time for play or socialising or to be children or young people.
- Caring may mean that you have to put your chance of a career on hold or never have the opportunity to have a career and reach your full potential.