What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides informal and unpaid support for a partner, family member, friends or neighbours affected by a disability or a long-term illness. The support provided can be short-term or long-term, and some carers will be life-long carers. The amount of support provided can also vary – in some cases, it can be relatively little and in others it will be considerably more substantial and on a regular basis. Anyone can find themselves taking on the role of a carer and this can happen at any stage in your life. There are around 657,000 carers in Scotland and there are thousands more “hidden” carers who are not being supported by formal services. There are also an estimated 100,000 “young carers” in Scotland. Children and young people who look after a family member at home are considered as “young carers”. It is common for carers and young carers who care for family members not to want other people getting involved. However, carers do not have to cope on their own and should not be afraid to ask for help.

Many carers say that it is a privilege to care for a loved-one and that caring brings rewards and a great deal of satisfaction. However, carers can often find it difficult to balance their caring role with other family responsibilities, work and their own social lives. Sometimes carers look after family members and others in very difficult and challenging circumstances, and because they feel obliged to rather than because it is what they would have chosen to do. South Ayrshire Council is committed to working with our partners to support carers and to help them continue to manage their caring role with confidence and in good health and to have a life of their own out-with their caring role.

What supports do carers provide?

Each carer and the person they provide support for is an individual so the support that is provided will be unique to them. However, there are certain roles and tasks that many carers can and do provide, and these can typically include the following:

  • helping someone get up and dressed in the morning
  • supporting them to eat/drink
  • helping someone to have social opportunities
  • doing household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping
  • supporting with budgeting and money matters
  • supporting someone with letters, phone calls and emails
  • accompanying them to appointments
  • providing general company and companionship

Why might someone need the support of their carer?

There are lots of different circumstances that can lead to a person being supported by an informal carer, and these may include any one or more of the following:

  • dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
  • frailty as a result of ageing
  • physical disability
  • having a learning disability
  • sensory impairment
  • acute episode of illness/disease
  • long term health condition
  • mental ill-health
  • alcohol or drug misuse
  • terminal health conditions such as cancer

Providing care and support for individuals with a range of complex health conditions is challenging. Due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances the level of input an individual requires, and the subsequent demands on the carer, can change frequently and dramatically. In South Ayrshire we recognise a change in circumstances can have a significant impact on the carer in respect of their own health and wellbeing.