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Supporting yourself while caring for someone
Learn how to manage your own wellbeing while caring for someone else. Get information and tips on looking after your mental health and finding support.
Note: throughout this resource, we use the words 'they' and 'them' to refer to the person you are supporting.
On this page we introduce what it means to be a carer, as well as:
What is caring for someone else?
Supporting someone else is sometimes called caring. You are a carer if you provide unpaid support and care for someone who has an illness, disability, mental health problem or addiction.
Even if you spend a lot of time supporting someone else, you might not consider yourself as a carer. You might feel like you do not count as a carer because:
- you think it’s your responsibility to care for your relative or friend
- you are providing support other than physical and practical support
- you think the role of carer is defined by social services, and carers provided by them.
Being someone's carer may only describe part of your relationship with them. You could be their parent, partner, sibling, child, grandchild, friend or other relative. This relationship can be just as, or more, important to you. You may also have other caring roles, for example taking care of your children.
As I was adjusting to caring for my cousin, I was also caring for my elderly parents, both of whom had serious health problems.
Caring can bring many positives and rewards. However, supporting others can be mentally and physically exhausting. The time you spend caring can vary too. Some people look after someone for a short time, others find themselves caring for someone in the long term.
The benefits system in England and Wales can seem complex. However, understanding if you can access benefits could help you as a carer.
The Carer's Allowance is a specific welfare benefit for carers, in addition to any benefits you usually claim. The benefits system defines you as a carer if you meet certain criteria, listed here on Carers UK.
Even if you don't meet this criteria, you may have needs for additional support. And your local council authority may still consider you to be a carer. See our legal page on carers' social care rights for more information.
Caring can mean a range of things. It may depend on whether you're caring for someone with a physical or mental health problem. It might also depend on whether it's a short-term or lifelong condition.
Being patient and giving support can feel like part of the normal give and take of any relationship. But sometimes you might find that you spend a lot more time and effort helping someone else.
You may provide a range of support such as:
- giving emotional support
- helping someone cope with or seek help for a mental health problem
- cooking and cleaning
- providing personal care like washing and going to the toilet
- budgeting and looking after finances
- supporting them to live alongside other people in your household
- helping others understand the needs of the person you are caring for
- giving medicine or providing medical care
- checking they are safe
- going to appointments with them and advocating on their behalf – this means helping them express their views and wishes.
Sometimes the person you care for may find it difficult to accept they need support from you. They may push you away or say things that upset you. This can make things feel extra hard.
For more information, see our page on helping someone else seek help.
If you look after someone with a mental health problem, you might be unsure whether what you do 'counts' as caring, or it's just part of day-to-day life. While some people think of caring as only physical tasks, giving emotional support is a big part of it.
For more information, see our page on supporting someone with a mental health problem.
I always thought a carer was someone who carried out the physical activities necessary. It hadn't occurred to me that while I helped him with the day-today things he found overwhelming, I also was mentally his carer too.