"Are you her carer?"
"I help with things she may need, but I'm also her daughter."
In the UK, 6,000 people become carers every day.
A carer is someone who supports a family member or friend who needs an extra helping hand, for example an elderly parent or a child with additional needs, on an unpaid basis.
Caring for someone can have a big impact on your relationship with them, in both good and bad ways. It can bring you closer to the person you're caring for, strengthen bonds and make you realise what's important.
On the other hand, you may find that your caring responsibility comes first and your relationship with the person and your own desires take second place. This is completely natural as you want the best for your loved one and want to feel like you have done as much as possible to help them. It is understandable that caring for someone can put a strain on your relationship. By ignoring and neglecting your own needs, you may find you struggle with low physical and mental wellbeing. This can sometimes, unintentionally, lead to feelings of frustration and resentment towards the person you are caring for.
It can be a real shock to the system for both of you when you begin caring. The person you care for may find it hard to accept help and worry about being a burden. I can assure you that these feelings are very common. It's important to be aware of these feelings and to find ways to limit the impact caring has on your relationship.
Here are some tips for managing your relationship with the person you care for:
1. Be open to change
When you become someone's carer, the chances are you'll need to make changes to the way you live, and potentially the way you interact with one another. Be aware that although things might get tougher, you can find new ways of doing things if you're open to giving it a go. Talk to each other, or other loved ones, be open and honest, and make a plan together. You're less likely to experience feelings of resentment if you can continue doing the things you love to do, in a different way or at a different time. For example, if you like going to the cinema but are no longer able to do so, set up a make-shift cinema in your front room, close the curtains, get some popcorn and put a film on.
2. Remember why you love them
Although you may be experiencing challenging times, going through an intense experience can bring you closer together and remind you of the things that are most important. Remember to take a break from your caring duties, and just be with the person you love. Celebrate and value the person you care for, for the person they are.
3. Find support to make things easier
A carer's assessment is a really good way of ensuring your needs as a carer are identified and met. They can be arranged through your local adult social services department. Anyone over the age of 18 who regularly cares for someone is entitled to a carer's assessment regardless of amount or type of care you provide, your financial means or your level of need for support. You do not have to live with the person you care for to qualify. The assessment might recommend things like help with the gardening and housework gym membership or exercise classes to relieve stress or putting you in touch with local support groups. The carer's assessment is there to make your life easier by allowing you to look after your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the person you care for. It can also give you the time and energy to spend quality time together, or with other loved ones.
A need for respite may be identified in your carer's assessment, or in a care needs assessment for someone who is cared for. Respite can be a one-off (for example, you wish to go on holiday) or ongoing, where the person you care for may go to a day centre or have care come in whilst you have time out. Relationships can come under pressure when a lack of time to focus on yourself causes low mental and physical wellbeing. This break can give you time to recharge your batteries and come back refreshed, ready to return to your loved one and your caring responsibilities.
Carers groups are a fabulous resource for anyone who is finding it hard to manage their feelings around care. They help show you that you are not alone and that everything you are feeling is normal. They may encourage you to go back to your caring role with a different perspective, with tips to make your life easier, or ways you can maintain your relationship with the person you care for. By talking to other people you can express how you feel and challenges you may be facing. This can be a huge relief and allow you to go back to the person you care for having got everything off your chest. Carers Trust have links to support groups in your local area, in the UK.
Counselling support can be beneficial when you are facing big changes in your life. This can be one-to-one, as a couple or as a family. Counselling provides a caring and supportive environment to help you look at what is happening in your life, find your own solutions and support you in making decisions, as well as helping you find ways to cope. You will explore your feelings, including your relationship with the person you care for.
Getting support for yourself early on ensures that you will be able to stay well and support your loved one for longer.
How CABA can help:
Everything we do at CABA is underpinned by our commitment to providing lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, past and present ICAEW staff and their close families.
Our care support officers offer a listening, non-judgemental ear for anyone who wishes to speak about care and care needs. We can give practical advice and information on all aspects of care from money and benefits, choosing residential care or care at home, to your rights at work as a carer. No enquiry is too small and there's no limit to the number of times you can contact us or how long we can support you.
We can also provide emotional support through professional counselling. We can arrange for one-to-one support, support for couples and family counselling. We have partnerships with Cruse, the bereavement charity, and Relate, the relationship people, to ensure that you can access the support most relevant to your situation.
Our range of personal and professional development courses can equip you with the skills and knowledge to take care of your wellbeing and support others to do the same. Courses include Supercharge your sleep, Eat and exercise for energy, Understanding mental health and Mindfulness for beginners. You can choose to work directly with our expert trainers in multiple locations across the UK or complete an e-learning course, perfect for those with caring commitments or living outside the UK.
All of our support is free and strictly confidential.
Written by: Joanna Rice-Evans
CABA Care Support Officer
Jo completed a degree in Psychology in 2008 and has since held positions within secure care homes, with Alzheimer's Society and Stroke Association providing support to patients and their carers both in acute and community settings. Jo joined the Care Support team in 2017 who give advice and support to chartered accountants, their carers and dependents.