Am I an unpaid carer?

An unpaid caregiver is someone who regularly looks after a family member, friend, or neighbour. You provide significant regular and substantial assistance without receiving any payment. Without a carer's support, the cared for person will struggle to handle their daily life because of illness, disability, frailty, or addiction.

The type of care and assistance you undertakeisn’t just medical related. Care can include help with personal care, household chores, medication management, transportation, and emotional support.

Do I need to be receiving carer’s allowance to be a caregiver?

You do not need to be a recipient of a carer’s allowance or be a trained professional to be a caregiver. You might naturally fall into this role without even realising! Being a carer can be, but is not limited to:

  • Looking after your child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

  • Supporting a partner with illness.

  • Being a sandwich carer where you are caring for your own children as well as aging parents.

  • Helping an adult sibling struggling with their mental health issues to live independently.

A grandmother holding a tablet, showing the screen to her adult daughter and toddler granddaughter.

Challenges faced by caregivers

  • Emotional toll: Witnessing a loved one's decline in health or independence can be emotionally draining. You may experience feelings of guilt, sadness, frustration, and even resentment. Especially if you have to give up personal pursuits or career opportunities.

  • Financial strain: Balancing work and caregiving duties can result in reduced working hours or even leaving the workforce altogether. This often impacts the caregiver's financial stability.

  • Social isolation: Caregiving can be an isolating experience. You might not have much time for socialising or struggle to connect with people who don't understand your responsibilities.

  • Physical exhaustion: Taking care of someone can be physically exhausting. Tasks like lifting, helping with movement, and giving medication can be hard on your body. Many caregivers neglect their own wellbeing, putting their physical health at risk in the process.

Black woman relaxing at home, sat in bed reading a book.

Ways to look after your wellbeing as a carer

Taking care of yourself helps your physical and mental health which will help you to bettersupport your loved one. Finding a balance between your own wellbeing and caregiving responsibilities is important.

Take regular breaks

Finding time for yourself can be the biggest challenge as a carer. Try to make time for yourself by:

  • Planningcover or setting aside time each week for your own hobbies and interests.

  • Using local resources like a pub quiz or virtual yoga class to reduce the stress of planning something fun.

  • Remember to prioritise yourself. Decline extra tasks or requests for your time if they are not vital.

  • Delegate tasks -can someone else do the grocery shoppingon the way home from work? Can you order your food for delivery to save a trip to the supermarket?

Look after your physical health

Taking care of your physical health can involve:

  • Making sure you get enough quality sleep - learn meditative and relaxation techniques to usebefore bed.

  • Eating well - discover easy to cook and healthy recipes.

  • Joining an exercise class – and there are plenty which are online, so you don’t have to travel!

Connect with others

Reach out for support and social interaction from family members, friends, support groups, or healthcare professionals. Connecting with others who understand yourchallenges can provide emotional validation and practical advice.

Access financial assistance

Explore available financial support options, such as carer's allowance, benefits, or grants, to alleviate financial burdens associated with caregiving. Getting financial help can give you the support you need to take care of others without hurting your own finances.

Woman with dark hair smiling as she engages with conversation with her sibling.

Care 2: remember to care for the carer too

At 51, we offer free online courses for carers - called Care 2. These one-off activities and sessions are designed by carers, for carers. Unlike a traditional “course”, there’s no long-term attendance commitment or exams at the end. It’s simply a gift for your enjoyment.

Take the chance to explore your own interests and connect with others from the comfort of your home with our virtual classes. Enjoy classes in classic literature, online yoga session or virtual tours of historical places. The benefits of learning something new will keep your mind fresh and help you to keep in touch with new trends or ideas.

We want to support your wellbeing by taking the pressure of planning out of your hands. Book a course just for yourself or as an activity to do with your cared for loved one.

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April Cheung
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About the author

April Cheung

Marketing Officer

April Cheung is a Marketing Officer at the 51. She specialises in employability and recruitment marketing as well as supporting learner engagement.