There is no carer stereotype, but it can be defined as anyone (child or adult) who looks after a family member, partner or friend because they need help as a result of illness, frailty, disability, mental health problem or an addiction, and is not paid for their work. There are around 7 million carers in the UK equating to one in ten people and this figure is predicted to rise by 3.4 million people over the next 15 years.
There are many ways that you might care for someone. For instance, you might:
- be on hand 24 hours a day to provide care.
- arrange hospital appointments for someone.
- drop round each day to keep someone company or cook their dinner.
- visit a relative who lives far away once a month to see how they’re doing.
- move in with someone to help them recuperate after a major operation.
The financial impact of carers in the UK
Caring for someone is a huge commitment impacting on all areas of wellbeing but aside from this, the economic contribution is estimated at £132 billion each year according to research carried out by the charity organisation Carers UK. This economic value is attributed to the number of hours people are caring for, combined with an increase in the cost of replacement care.
The importance of carers from a monetary perspective is highlighted by the fact that even if a small percentage of people were unable to continue caring then the economic impact of this would be catastrophic.
The responsibility of a carer to ensure the wellbeing of those in their care is wide-reaching but this can take its toll on their own health. Taking time out for yourself when possible and pursuing your own interests is an important way to maintain good physical and mental health while also socialising with others. Even if time is limited then having a friend pop over for a cup of tea or short walk can give you the essential time you need to yourself.
Nutrition requirements of carers
Nutrition and diet are important for carers so stocking up on nutritious foods to make quick simple and cost-effective meals is essential. Skipping meals or adopting bad eating habits can lead to weight gain and or a lack of energy which may all impact on your ability to care whilst meeting your own health needs.
Creating a repertoire of simple nutritious dishes that you can cook on rotation is a good way to plan and budget for food as it is exploring quick money saving tips such as buying in season or cooking in batches.
You can find information and support to help you take care of your own health from your local carer services (you can find your local one through the charity, Carers Trust).
Financing the cost of care
The impact of caring can take its toll on those that still have to work at the same time, which is estimated to be one in eight carers. Many carers have to sacrifice employment to fulfil their caring responsibilities, which can add to stress and financial commitments with surveys showing that 53% of carers have had to borrow money as a result of their caring role with 61% borrowing from friends or relatives and 41% having to use overdrafts. It’s also been shown that 60% of carers have had to use all of their savings, whilst 23% have had to re-mortgage their homes or downsize to smaller properties to cover the costs.
When you start caring then check whether the person you care for is able to able to claim benefits. You can also find out what support is available to you from the local authority as this could spare time for you to maintain work commitments and continue to earn a living whilst caring for a loved one.
Juggling work and caring
Carers have the right to request flexible working hours to help map out a working pattern that fits in with their role as a carer. This could involve working compressed hours (fit all your hours into fewer days), changing your working hours (starting earlier and finishing earlier), working from home or job sharing.
The responsibilities demanded of a carer are vast, but it is important that they have access to the knowledge and support to help them manage tight budgets and ensure their own personal health both mentally and physically. This series of articles will focus on the wellbeing of carers and offer tips and advice on how to eat well and live well whilst caring for others.
About the author
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition is a registered nutritionist (Association for Nutrition) and has trained and worked as a public health nutritionist (MSc public health nutrition). Rob has worked with companies and organisations including schools, care homes, government agencies and the NHS. He is passionate about combining nutrition and also works with private clients in their homes using food and cooking as a tool to guide teaching in a practical way to achieve long-term results.Last modified: June 10, 2021