Are you providing regular help to a partner, neighbour, relative or friend who is experiencing mental health issues and could not manage otherwise?
Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a carer – few people do – however to a degree we are all carers. We look after our children when they’re small, we look after our homes, we take an interest in our wider family, friends, neighbours etc. We lend a hand if someone asks us to help out but when ill health strikes, particularly mental ill health, you can feel that your whole world has been turned upside down. It can be complex, challenging, even difficult at times. Families and carers play a key role in the recovery of those with mental health problems and are entitled to help and support. With appropriate advice, information, resolve and determination you can play an invaluable role in helping someone recover from their difficulties.
It is important that you too are recognised as an equal partner in the care of someone you are looking after. NHSGGC uses the partnership-working model called the Triangle of Care so this takes place.
Triangle of Care
The Triangle of Care approach was initially developed by carers and staff seeking to improve carer engagement in acute inpatient services. It has now been extended to cover all mental health services whether they are an inpatient, community team or specialist service such as eating disorders or forensic mental health services.
There are six key standards to the Triangle of Care which all mental health services are working towards.
- Carers and the essential role they play are identified at first contact or as soon as possible thereafter
- Staff are ‘carer aware’ and trained in carer engagement strategies
- Policy and practice protocols on confidentiality and sharing information, are in place
- Defined post(s) responsible for carers are in place
- A carer introduction to the service and staff is available, with a relevant range of information across the care pathway
- A range of carer support services is available.
The Carers Trust has further information about the Triangle of Care and what it can mean for you.
Looking after yourself
Things you can do, as a carer, to look after yourself?
The hints and suggestions below have been put together by fellow carers.
- It’s okay to ask for help
- Learning and getting the right information is essential
- Take time out for yourself
- It’s okay to be upset and emotional
- Talking to someone who can understand and empathise with your situation can really help
- Use support groups
- Find out how others cope
- Focus on positive things
- Share your view with service providers – having your voice heard can be empowering.
Health and Well-Being
As a carer it is important to remember to look after your own physical, social and emotional health needs This may at times feel impossible, however, these areas may assist you in your caring role.
Physical – Ask for a health check at your GP surgery or some carer centres can direct you to have one carried out. Look after your physical health by eating a well-balanced diet. Aim to get enough sleep, and try to get some exercise which will help you relax, feel better and improve your health and wellbeing.
Social – Try to get time out from your caring role to socialise with family members and friends. Maintain or develop new interests or hobbies. If you are on your own speak to a carers centre who can advise you about social opportunities.
Emotional – You might find it helpful to access advice and support from agencies such as Social Work, CMHT, local voluntary agencies or a dedicated carer centre. Talking to other carers who have experienced similar situations to you can often help. Emotional and educational support can also help especially if you feel that you have no one to turn to. Sometimes talking to professionals can help too if you feel you need more than just a listening ear your GP can direct you to agencies which offer CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or talking therapies in your local area.
Recognising your role as a carer
Many people do not see themselves as a ‘carer’ in a formal sense. Many people view caring for someone as a duty.
The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 provides you with the right to request an Adult Carers Support Plan. This is a plan which can help you look at what you need in order to provide you, as a carer, with support and the chance to have a life outside of caring. You can request this via the local Social Work Department or speak to the Social Worker or Community Psychiatric Nurse in the local Community Mental Health Team. You are entitled to this Adult Carers Support Plan even if the person you care for does not want you to have one; this is about you the carer and what you need.
If you are 18 and under you may be considered to be a young carer and can, under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 be entitled to a Young Carers Statement. You can contact your local Social Work Department about this or if you attend a young carer service speak to the workers there.
Further information for carers is available from NHSGGC Carers Information
Planning for an emergency or crisis
It never fails that a crisis probably happens at the most inconvenient time – late at night, over a weekend, or when you are planning a break. At such times it is not easy to respond in the best or most appropriate way.
It is helpful therefore to try to think about some of the worst-case scenarios in advance, and how might you respond, who might you call on and where to keep this information safe and handy. It’s like having a plan of action you can turn to help you through.
Make sure you have the numbers of our out of hours’ services that are available in your area. Similarly have the numbers for relatives and friends who can be called on at short notice, either to give you support in your home to deal with the emergency. It is good if these people are with you once the crisis/emergency has ended as you might like someone to talk about how you feel.
Keep contact numbers of the all the services involved in the care and treatment of the person you care for, make sure these numbers are in a safe and handy place. If storing them in your mobile, make sure it is charged, or keep written copies.
Any plans you make for dealing with emergencies should be agreed between you and the person you care for when that person is well. This is not always easy as many people do not want to think about being ill again. However, if you have a backup plan it may actually be helpful in avoiding a more serious crisis.
Further information for carers is available from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
BSL – Carers
NHSGG&C BSL A-Z: Mental Health – Carers
A Carer is anybody who provides support and care to someone who has an illness, disability, mental health problem or an addiction. In most cases, this is an unpaid role. Being a carer can be difficult and have an impact on the person’s life. There are a range of supports available and carers are also entitled to a formal assessment of their needs
Please note that this video is from a range of BSL videos published by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde