The many things carers wish they knew when they started out

Carer and mum of three Jo
Carer and mum of three Jo

THE CHALLENGES faced by unpaid carers – some of whom don’t even know they are carers – are being highlighted this week.

And to give Carers Rights Day added impact people have been sharing important information they wish they had known when they started out.

Almost a hundred have responded so far to charity Carer Support Wiltshire’s campaign with advice ranging from practical to emotional.

“I wish I’d known that I was actually a carer and that I could claim carers allowance and NI credits for my pension,” said one.

Another wrote: “ I wish I’d known to take videos early when the family visited, particularly with sound. Voices are so unique.”

Others wrote about taking ‘me time’ without feeling guilty, having to lean how to use online banking due to the stress of managing two people’s finances and getting Power of Attorney before their partner became ill.

Jo from Melksham, who has three children aged 11 to 18, said: “I wish I’d known sooner that I was a carer and not just a parent. Also that I’d known there was support out there for me.

“Parent carers not only need to navigate the physical and emotional care of their child or children, but also navigate their way through the maze of bureaucracy designed to help support their child through education and into work, which isn’t always straightforward.

“For example, it’s not always easy to know where to start with requesting a needs assessment/EHCP and many don’t know that you can do it yourself and don’t need expensive legal help or even the support of your nursery, school or college. Don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.”

Interim chief executive of the charity Leanne Hubbard said: “Some people find their caring role increases gradually over time and others are plunged into it. For some, their loved one will receive a diagnosis, for example of dementia, and they are left wondering what they should be doing. It can be overwhelming to know where to turn. This is where Carer Support Wiltshire can help, and we would always recommend getting in contact for a chat about what support is out there for you if you are providing care to someone.”

She explained Carers Rights Day on November 24 was focussed on making sure people knew their rights, how to ask for what they needed and how to complain if they weren’t being met.

“As well as communicating these rights to carers, we also wanted to focus on peer-to-peer support through our I Wish I’d Known campaign because those who are caring for someone are the ones who really know what is important to know about.”

Swindon Carers Centre is marking Carers Rights Day with an event on Friday concentrating on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Staged at The Platform in Faringdon Road between 10am and 1.30pm, it is for anyone supporting a family member or friend, unpaid – whether they are new to their caring role or have been caring for a while.

It will also discuss the cost of caring, which can have a significant impact on a carer’s finances, employment options and personal health and wellbeing. In a national survey from Carers UK, 77 per cent of carers said that the rising cost of living was one of the main challenges they would face over the coming year.

Chief executive Susanna Jones said: “Many of our carers are facing challenges because of the UK’s current cost-of-living crisis, placing further stress on what can already be a challenging role.

“When you’re caring for someone who is unwell or frail, it’s common to have higher energy bills. This may be needed to keep them warm, or to power vital equipment – such as stair lifts, hoists, ventilators, monitors and feeding machines.

Among the speakers and presenters are borough director of public health Steve Maddern, associate director of patient safety and quality for Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Integrated Care Board Sarah-Jane Peffers, MPs Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson and the carers centre benefits service co-ordinator Tim Saint.

There will be a questions and answer session and carers can submit their queries in advance by emailing communications@swindoncarers.org.uk