Sheelagh Donovan works in the Information and Advice Department at Age UK, writing health information for our publications and website. Sheelagh talks about a new guide on caring that she recently worked on.
Caring can be a central part of many older people’s lives. For many who have partners and spouses, it can be an expected and valued part of ageing together, so much so that they may fail to see themselves as carers.
For others, it is a no less valuable part of a friendship. As many of us live longer, it is not unusual for people in their 50s and 60s to be caring for older parents while also supporting grandchildren or a disabled adult child.
That’s why we are pleased to see publication this week of ‘A Practical Guide to Healthy Caring’, developed jointly by NHS England, Age UK, Carers UK, the Carers Trust and Public Health England.
For many older people, this guide, is the perfect complement to last year’s ‘A Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing’, that focused on supporting people who feel they may be starting to slow down a bit. Hence the very obvious name.
Over a third of carers aged 65+ provide 50 or more hours of informal care each week. It’s not surprising therefore that this can take its toll on people’s health, even if this can sometimes be hard to admit.
One poll found that 68.8% of respondents said being a carer had damaged their psychological wellbeing.
As a carer, taking care of your own health and needs is vitally important not only for you but for the person you care for. This guide sets out to describe some of the ways you can do this, including signposting to organisations that can offer practical and emotional support such as a local carers group or online forum and your local authority.
One step it suggests you take is to tell your GP that you are a carer or have caring responsibilities. This can help your GP be more alert to some of the issues you might be facing or could mean they provide additional support for health conditions you may be living with.
Eating a varied diet and trying to build time into your day for things that help you relax, even if only for 10 minutes, are also emphasised. These may seem like obvious points, but can be easily forgotten if you are feeling stretched or that you have no time for yourself.
This guide is incredibly timely. Ongoing funding cuts to health and social care are putting increasing pressure on families to take on caring responsibilities.
While there is clearly a balance to be struck between support from public services and support offered by family or friends, their care of loved ones is not a replacement for good quality local services and support.
You can order free copies of the Guide, which is in an A4 magazine style, by contacting Prolog, the NHS publications order line, by phone on 0300 123 1002 or online at www.orderline.dh.gov.uk Quote reference HC1. If you would like a copy of the Healthy Ageing Guide as well, quote HA2.
As well as carers and carers organisations, we hope that GPs, pharmacists and Fire and Rescue Services will order and distribute the Guide too.