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What is a carer?

What is a carer?
A carer is anyone who, unpaid, looks after a friend or family member who can't cope alone due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction.

Anyone can become a carer. Carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be any age. Many people don't recognise themselves as carers.

How many carers there are in Scotland

There are estimated to be over 780,000 unpaid carers in Scotland. This is approximately 1 in 7 of the Scottish population who provide care and support to a family member, friend or neighbour to help that person live in their own community.

There are also many hidden carers in Scotland who haven't been identified and are not being supported by services.

See the Scottish Government's Scotland's Carers.

What carers do

There are many ways you might care for someone else, which include:

  • practical tasks, like cooking, housework and shopping
  • physical support, like lifting, helping someone on stairs or with physiotherapy
  • personal care, like washing, dressing and helping with toileting needs
  • managing the household budget, and collecting benefits and prescriptions
  • giving medication
  • emotional support

The time a caring role takes up can vary hugely from carer to carer, and may involve:

  • visiting a relative who lives far away once a month
  • arranging hospital appointments for someone
  • dropping in daily to a nearby disabled friend to give them a meal and company
  • moving in with a relative to help them get better after an operation
  • being there to provide 24-hour constant care for a partner

Why carers need support

Whether carers have cared for the person for a long time, are temporarily helping them perhaps while they get better after an operation or have just recently become a carer, they may need some practical and emotional support.

Becoming a carer can be rewarding, but it may sometimes also feel overwhelming and demanding. Take time to review your options to make sure the best decision is made for both you and the person who needs care.
Where you can get support

Getting support from friends and family can help, and your GP and local council's social care department should be able to advise you.

There are also many organisations that can offer you information, advice and support. They include:

You can get local help from carers' centres, which offer information, advice, training and emotional support. You can also have a break from your caring role, meet other carers, and enjoy some fun and relaxing activities like aromatherapy massages.

Further information

Carers Trust Scotland works to improve support, services and recognition for carers.

The information was last updated on: 3rd May 2018


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