Date Revised:

It can be very hard to find time to look after your own health when you are a carer. Perhaps you have your own health worries and put off going to appointments or for treatment as you worry what will happen to the person you care for. 

Are you worried about: 

  • Who is going to look after the person you care for whilst you go into hospital? 
  • Making sure you have support so that you have time to recover from your treatment?  
  • What would happen to the person you care for if you were suddenly taken ill? 

Get in touch with your local council 

Your local council is a good starting point.  Search for your local council on Gov.uk. You will probably need to talk to their adult social services department. 

Make sure you have had a carer’s assessment (or Adult Carer Support Plan in Scotland ) to find out what sort of support you need as a carer.  

The council should also offer the person you care for an assessment to work out what they need –  this is often called a needs assessment. 

You should have an assessment even if you, or the person you care for, will probably have to pay for any support you get.  Your council will still be able to help work out what sort of support would be best and can help you find it.  

Get in touch with your local carer service 

Your local carer service may also be able to help. They will know exactly what is available where you live. In England and Wales some local carers services from Carers Trust have paid, trained carer support workers who can take over the caring role for you in the short term. 

Local carers services will also be able to help you in lots of ways, such as getting benefits advice and having a chance to talk to someone about how you are getting on. Many carers find it especially helpful to meet other carers who are in a similar situation to themselves. Regular carer groups, and other social activities, are a great chance to take a short break and to share your experiences.  

Find your local carer service. You can also search online by typing the name of your nearest town and 'carer'. 

Buying paid care at home 

If the person you care for already gets support from a paid support worker, or personal assistant, see if this care can be extended whilst you are recovering from any treatment.  

As well as your local council or local Carers Trust service there are lots of care agencies that provide paid support workers. Many of these can offer short term support, and even overnight care if needed. 

Find out more about getting paid help at home, getting a break and Carers Trust’s buying care guide

Short stays in residential care 

It may be a good idea for the person you care for to stay in short term residential care whilst you are in hospital, and to give you an opportunity to recuperate afterwards.   

Many people find this thought very daunting, and worry it may be the start of something more permanent.  

Try to reassure the person you care for and if possible involve them in the process of choosing somewhere suitable.  The kind of support they will be able to offer depends on their needs. For example, nursing homes will be able to offer a very high level of nursing care as well as support with other tasks, such as personal care and help to get around.  

Paying for additional help 

This can get complicated as will depend on exactly what you and the person you care for need, for how long, and how much each of you can afford to pay.  Again talk your local council and local carer service for advice.  
There are also lot of other options for paying of additional short term help: 

Also see paying for respite

Talk to family and friends 

If you are only having a short stay in hospital, or you just need to go for an appointment, perhaps a relative or friend could help. Make sure they know how important it is for you to get to your appointment. 

Make sure you get enough support when you come home 

If you are going to need time to recover after your hospital visit (which most people do) make sure you get the support you need.  Again you can look at all the options above, but for yourself. Perhaps you would benefit from a short residential stay in a care home, or for paid support workers helping you out for a few days. 

Also consider getting some additional help with other tasks such as cooking, cleaning or gardening. Is there anyone else who could help with these tasks for a few days or weeks?  Would it be worth paying someone to help with these? Or as a minimum make sure you have a lot of frozen meals ready for when you get back. 

What to do in an emergency? 

If you suddenly become unwell, for example you are taken to hospital, then tell staff there that you are a carer and that there is someone relying on your support. They may be able to help you get seen very quickly, or to call someone for you who can provide care until you return. 

Many local carer services and local councils run carer emergency schemes where an emergency plan can be put into action if there is a sudden problem. Most of these schemes are free and can give you peace of mind as you know that someone will respond if you can’t. 

Each of the schemes works slightly differently so check with your local carer service about what is available where you live. They don't usually cover if you have something planned, such as an appointment, and need short term replacement care. 

Next update due: June 2017