As winter approaches, we are encouraging any carers of someone who is elderly, ill or disabled to visit their GP for a free flu jab to reduce the risk to their own health — as well as the health of the person they care for.

Carers can find out if they are eligible for a flu jab via NHS Carers Direct.

To help raise awareness, we are also calling on all professionals working with carers to help spread the message of the importance of getting the flu jab via our dedicated promotional materials and information.

Every winter, the vast majority of unpaid carers miss out on a free flu jab, despite the fact that they’re entitled to request one if they’re the main carer for someone who’s ill or disabled and whose health would be at risk if they fell ill.

Why flu vaccination is important

If a carer is struck down by the flu and becomes too ill to care, there may be no-one else who can step in and look after the person they care for.

If a carer is looking after someone with a lowered immune system and gets the flu, they could pass the virus on to the person they care for, even if the person they look after has had a flu jab.

Mike’s story

When 59-year-old Mike came down with the flu one winter, it wasn’t just his own health he was worried about. Mike is the main carer for his 89-year-old father whose poor health convinced Mike that he needed to give up his life in the States and move in with him several years ago.

Looking back, Mike is shocked by how badly the flu affected him. “There I was, lying on the settee, aching all over and struggling to keep my eyes open and all I could think about was how on earth my Dad was going to cope, “ he explains.

“I’d been due to do the weekly shop at the supermarket so there was hardly any food in the house. And even though Dad was desperate to help, there’s no way he could have coped with going to the shops on his own.”

Mike’s worries didn’t stop there, either. Due to a serious renal condition, his father has a catheter and relies on Mike to change the bag. 

”In the end, I had to ask my 84 year-old auntie for help” he says. “And her daughter was able to step in after a couple of days as well, but it wasn’t easy because she has a family of her own to look after.” 

“I’ve never felt so ill in my life. And as a carer for my Dad, I just can’t afford to let it happen again. In the past, I’d always made sure Dad got his flu jab but I’d never considered how important it was for me to have one too. I guess I’ve learned the hard way.”