Hi everyone. Welcome to another one of my carer videos. Although my videos are mainly there to raise awareness of mental health and mental health carers, I hope all who view them find such videos educational. As a note, a carer is someone unpaid who is caring for a relative, friend or neighbour. Carers usually care for someone who is unable to care for themselves and they do not have to suffer old age difficulties.
Today I want to raise awareness of where carers tend to go for support. That would be the carer center. There are hundreds of carer centers dotted around the UK, some independent, some aligned to CarersTrust or CarersUK, but what they all have in common is the services they provide for around 7 million carers in the UK.
If you wish to view the video to this blog please click “Play” on the video below.
A place for adult and young carers.
It is well known that carers can become isolated, this is due to several reasons, but the main one is if the ‘cared for’ is suffering chronic illness then the carer cannot possibly have much time for their own needs, hence they are busy caring. Of course if applied for and the local services have them, carers might get access to a care worker or some respite (which means a break from caring), but to be honest such support heavily depends on the councils resources and often carer support is limited.
So basically the carer wishes for that vital extra support where there is a place for them to go and get the support, which I will go into more detail later.
Why they are needed
Without a carer centre, many more carers would suffer due to the strain of caring for someone. Not every carer can hold steadfast and provide that much needed care to those close to them. With the support and information from those working at a carer center, carers can be put at ease about their role.
Carer centers are that vital bridge to the local services, the health authorities and raising awareness amongst the public. Carers should not and must not be isolated and expected to get on with it. Carers rights should be protected and carer centers are also information hubs to give carers that much needed support.
What would happen without carer centers
If there were no carer centers, then the risk is that carers would have to rely on even more support from the council and health authorities who struggle enough with their own services. Other risks are that relying too much on those parties can often end up with them not being carer aware. Carers would end up isolated, families would fracture under the strain, carers would more likely end up using health services themselves. There would be a lack of lobbying for carers.
Carers should support their carer centres
Being a carer of 15 years and continuing, I have constantly used a carers center for support. Without there being such a center, I probably would struggle in being a carer. Across the country, we unfortunately have some systems not designed to support the carer, which is why carers should use their carers center for support.
A carer’s center is only as good as the amount of carers that support or use the center, there must be a place where carers come together to get support, help other carers and help raise carer awareness.
WHAT DO CARERS CENTERS DO?
Carer center’s do a lot, those that work in the carer center do a lot. I cannot possibly go into every detail, but I will list some of the main activities of a carers center.
Listening to carers
The first and most vital role of a carers center is to listen to carers. When I do a speech or presentation, I often say that Doctors struggle to listen to me, but when I call my local carer center or book an appointment, there will be time a space where I am heard.
These are some of the following tasks of a carer center
- On the phone support – or meeting a carer representative
- Referrals and Signposting – to other agencies e.g. specialist carer support/
- Provide information – e.g by website, leaflet or 1 to 1 or to a group of carers
- Legal Surgeries – Some carer centers bring in solicitors who do community work and provide free advice to carers.
Emotional and practical support for carers
Who says that only the ‘cared for’ suffers emotional distress? Carers can be worn out and tired, unable to cope and question if they can continue caring, but at the back of their minds they wonder if the ‘cared for’ would receive that vital support.
Carer centers can usually offer
- Counselling for carers – A carer aware and focused therapy for carers
- Specific Carers groups – Support groups designed for carers
Advocacy work e.g. attending important meetings
There will be times when carers will reach a dead-end in talking to health professionals or the local authority. This could be for a number of reasons, one of them being that the carer feels they are being left out, cannot understand what is being discussed, do not know their rights. So if a carer center can provide an advocate to attend such meetings, it is a welcome relief to the carer.
Lobby for carers through a recognised channel
Not all carer centers are alike, I have visited a large range of carer centers and I can see how differently they work. Some carer centers work well with the health authorities, while others are more aggressive and demand change. It is however a complex situation for when a carer center has to lobby this is due to how badly health support services are affected, if established relationships between the carer center, Local authority and health professionals are set up and how are carers are demanding recognition.
- Depends on the resources of the center.
- Also on the culture (what are the issues in that region).
- Some centers will be aggressive if there are continual carer problems.
- Others may be held back due to funding issues, so it is hard for them to start up carer support projects.
Carers getting work skills
There are times when carers struggle to hold on to their job because they have to focus on caring. We also have carers who wish to return to work, but struggle to find work due to juggling caring or lack of work skills.
Carer centers can also provide :-
Training for education and employment which is carer focused.
Carer centers do need support and there are a number of ways carers who do have that precious spare time to volunteer. It is critical you have that time and to be honest former carers tend to volunteer.
Carers can volunteer by
- Being a Receptionist at the carers center
- Being trained Befrienders or Peer support for carers
- Support at events and activities.
- Publicity group going around and hanging up leaflets, engaging at GP surguries, CCG
- Raising carer awareness, speaking at events on behalf of the carer center
- Members of the board of the carer center
- and many more things
Access to carer groups and networking with other carers
It is important that carer networking can be exercised, so carers have a sense of identity. It is difficult enough role to be an isolated carer and the stigma of the label carer can lock people into not getting any support whatsoever.
Carer centers can provide carer support groups or forums where carers can come together and express their thoughts and opinions.
Provide carer assessments
Recording that you are a carer to a database is not enough, being a carer can be a long or short journey, but there should be every chance given that a carer can have a carer’s assessment, even if they feel they do not like the label of carer, as a right….if you are providing care to someone, you should be assessed for your needs.
Carer’s assessment can look at how
- Your caring role and how it affects your life and well-being
- Your health – physical, mental and emotional issues
- Your feelings and choices about caring
- and much more.
Dealing with complex money situations
Carers and their loved ones can struggle to financially support themselves because they are using every other means to pay for food, heat, rent and other important nessacities. Carer centers can help with
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replacing DLA
- Housing & Council Tax Benefit
Pampering and relaxation sessions
Depending on the carer center’s resources, they can also provide
- Osteopath to help with carers suffering physical strain
- Massage for carers to relax
- Yoga sessions for carers
- Types of therapy – Mindfulness
As humans, we are a social group and like to be around others, carers are no different and even though they are busy in their role, there will be times when they want to do other things that does not involve caring. Some carer centers can provide carers to work on
- Carer Garden
- singing and art workshops
- Carer walks
- and other activities.
I hope I have managed to explain at least some of the main points of what a carer centre does. Do feel free to check out my video and remember that if you are a carer, please avoid of having to cope by yourself. Carer centres are there to help you and protect your rights.
Good luck on your caring journey.