Who cares for carers?

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News & Insights

Julie Hutchison

9th June 2014 at 3:35pm

Who cares for you, if you’re a carer?

That question was on my mind when I met Mary* recently, and heard about her perspectives on the challenges facing those who care for elderly parents.

A career break to be a carer

Mary took an 18 month break from her job, to care for her mother as her dementia worsened. Her father also died during that period, which made her mother’s care issues more acute.

Mary had saved for a ‘rainy day’, and that day came when she took a decision about her priorities and how she wanted to spend that 18 month period. And because she had had a good savings habit, she could use income from her savings to partially replace her old salary for that 18 month period.

Fortunately, Mary’s mother had granted a power of attorney, which meant Mary had permission to operate her mother’s bank account, to pay for bills and add-on care packages. This included the peace of mind which came with an emergency response service, linked to a help button on a lanyard, which meant Mary could go out for short periods of time and leave her mother on her own, knowing support would be available if her mother needed it.

Support services and challenges

But when you’re a carer, you can’t switch off the sense of responsibility you feel. Local council services do help.  Both social workers and mental health nurses provide a crucial service. Council services provided 4 visits a day, at getting-up time, lunch, tea and bedtime, for 15 minutes on each visit. But Mary did not feel that was enough in her mother’s case and she was afraid for her mother’s wellbeing and safety for the other 23 hours in the day.

What Mary describes as most valuable is the day care services provided by the council where dementia patients can attend one day a week- or more often in some cases. Mary’s mother would get a hot meal at lunchtime and stimulating activities by trained staff between 10.00am and 3.00pm.

There are also befriending services where trained volunteers are assigned to a dementia patient and take them out for an hour or so once a week – perhaps for some shopping or a cup of tea.  Shopping can be both a funny and challenging experience. There were times when her mother would shoplift by mistake, forgetting she had not paid for the things she was holding. Fortunately, Mary always found shop staff very understanding

My experience of dementia was from a different perspective – almost 20 years ago. One of my grandmothers had dementia in the years before she died. I’m not sure my younger self was that great a grand-daughter in that time, as I got upset seeing her and visited less often as a result.

Where to get more help and information

There’s 5.7 million people over the age of 18 who care for someone, with a peak for carers between the ages of 50 and 59. That’s an age when most people can expect to still be working.  So it helps if you have an employer who can be flexible, as you juggle to deal with caring and working. There’s 5.7 million people over the age of 18 who care for someone, with a peak for carers between the ages of 50 and 59. That’s an age when most people can expect to still be working.  So it helps if you have an employer who can be flexible, as you juggle to deal with caring and working.

The services and support provided by VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian) are worth looking at.

Scope, one of Standard Life’s charity partners, has lots of additional information on their website if you want to find out more.

If you’ve not granted a power of attorney yet (either a Lasting Power of Attorney in England and Wales, or a Continuing Power of Attorney in Scotland) you can help your loved ones to ultimately help you by granting a power of attorney. I signed a power of attorney when I was in my 20s – you are doing your loved ones a favour by sorting this out, or else they face a court process, delay and thousands of pounds of cost in running your finances if you don’t have one of these in place and you become unwell.

Mary also advises that if you find yourself in a situation where your parents need more help, and if your loved ones are suffering dementia, it is best to deal with it head on. A lot of help can be provided by GPs, social workers and district mental health nursing teams who can open the doors to support available.

And with Carers’ Week raising awareness of the difficulties faced by carers, it’s a good time to check the information available via the campaign website.

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This blog and any responses to comments are not financial advice.

*At “Mary’s” request, I am not using her real name

Standard Life has a referral service, which can help you put a power of attorney in place. We’ve linked with a law firm in England and Wales, and also Scotland, to make it easier for you to take the next step. These law firms offer a fixed fee service, to give you certainty over how much it will cost.  If you’d like to use this service or request an Information Pack, call us on 0845 272 8810. Phone lines open Monday to Thursday 09:00 – 19:00, Friday 09:00 – 18:00, Saturday 10:00 – 13:00. Calls may be monitored and/or recorded to protect both you and us and help with our training. Call charges will vary.