If a family member or close friend has sustained a brain injury, you may wish to take on the role of caring for them. Whether you do this while continuing to work, or if you give up work to care, there is support and help you can access.
There are many examples of what caring for someone can involve. These include:
- Being available 24 hours a day to provide care
- Arranging doctors, hospital, treatment and rehabilitation appointments
- Calling on someone each day to provide company or cook a meal
- Living with someone after an injury or operation to help with their recovery
If you are helping to care for someone after a brain injury, you should contact your local social services to arrange a carer’s assessment.
What is a carer’s assessment?
A carer’s assessment is undertaken by your local social services and will assess what you may need and anything that might help you when caring for your family member. You can get a carer’s assessment if you are providing regular and substantial care for someone.
The type of support you can receive will be determined by your carer’s assessment but can include:
- Options for respite to enable you to take a break from caring
- Information about local carers support groups
- Help with providing care
- Any aids and equipment that can assist you with caring
Will I get paid for being a carer?
If you provide care for a family member after a brain injury for at least 35 hours a week, you may be able to claim carer’s allowance. Carer’s allowance is £66.15 a week and will be paid to you either weekly in advance or every four weeks and will be paid directly into your bank account.
To be eligible for carer’s allowance, the person you are caring for must already receive certain benefits and your income must be less than £123 a week after tax, national insurance and expenses There are lots of other eligibility criteria, as well as directions on how to apply for carer’s allowance on the government website - gov.uk/carers-allowance
Receiving carer’s allowance can impact other benefits you and the person who you are caring for is receiving, so this should be considered when applying for carer’s allowance.
Can I get help at work if I’m caring for a family member?
Working while also caring for someone after a brain injury can be extremely difficult. But some things can make the situation easier for you. You should speak with your employer about your caring role and explain the situation to them so that you can work out a plan for your circumstances.
If you are providing care and working at the same time, you have the right to put in a request for flexible working. Flexible working can include many different ways of working, including:
- Changing your hours: this could consist of starting or finishing work earlier or later than your contracted hours to help fit around caring.
- Compressed hours: working the same number of hours across fewer days. For instance, working 8 am to 6 pm four days a week, rather than 9 am to 5 pm across five days.
- Working part-time or job sharing: this involves cutting down your working hours, or splitting your hours and sharing tasks and jobs with a colleague.
- Agile working: having the ability to work from home or another location, so you are nearer to the person you are caring for.
Flexible working may allow you to continue working while also providing the necessary care for your family member, as well as having time for yourself.
A request for flexible working can be made once a year. Any requests should be reviewed by your employer, but they do not have to accept it and make the requested changes.
Can I get a break from caring?
You must take time for yourself and have a break if you are caring for someone full time. You can arrange respite care so that you can take a break. This can include making arrangements for someone to visit your family member and care for them, or for them to go out for the day to a group activity or day centre. If it is for longer periods, this can also include a stay in residential care.
Respite care depends on where you live and will either be provided as a result of a carer’s assessment or a needs assessment of the person you are caring for. If either of these assessments identify the need for respite care, your local council should provide this.
Taking care of yourself
When you’re caring for someone else, it can be easy to forget about yourself and your needs. But you must take care of yourself and carry on enjoying the things that are important to you.
You should make your GP aware that you are a carer so that they can offer you relevant support and advice and ensure that it is not impacting on your mental health. You may also be eligible for a flu jab if the person you care for has any ongoing health issues.
You should also try and get enough rest and sleep, and make sure you eat a healthy diet. You will not be able to provide the best care for your family member if you are not in the best health yourself.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are people around you that can take some of the burden if you’re struggling with caring for your family member.