Providing Care as a Family Member

James Bowdler

24 September, 2019

2 min read

Care can be expensive. Whether you need a lot of care or just a little, it represents a cost that almost all of us have planned for. It is natural to want to deliver as much care as you can yourself, as this is not only better for your parent or child, but also saves on the cost of care.

Delivering care yourself can be a risky business:

We have heard some horror stories, here at PrimeCarers. From clients using the top of the stairs to stand their loved ones up, to people getting sucked into delivering 24hr care, leading to the loss of a job and social life. While those are extreme examples, for every one of these, there are tens of other less dramatic, but damaging ones.

How to deliver care yourself:

If you are going to deliver care yourself, it is critical that you take the time to learn about all aspects of care, from the physical and behavioural, to the psychological.

Here, we seek to help you do that safely, and where appropriate, point you towards people and organisations that can equip you with the skills you need.

Listen and learn:

The first step is to talk to your GP. They may get you a needs assessment from a District Nurse, Occupational Health Therapist, or other NHS professional, in your loved one’s home. They will advise you and you loved on, on what is needed; from a personal care schedule to extra equipment. If you qualify, you may receive much of this for free. You are not obligated to meet any of the requirements that aren’t free.

Set yourself up for success

Get a carers assessment, ideally at the same time as the needs assessment, by contacting your local social services. This will give you advice or even additional services to help you to cope with managing and delivering care. They can also recommend local organisations to support you, and training that will help you to get your own skills up-to-scratch.

You should also set up the home, to minimise risks and make life safer and easier, by doing things like rearranging useful items to make them more accessible, providing chairs and side tables at strategic points and even bringing the bed downstairs. You can read more about that here.

Learn the basics

A lot of the basic physical skills of care delivery are common sense. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, dropping in on them when required and handling their affairs is probably something you are already capable of doing. However, there are other aspects that may be new to you:

Physical care delivery: Moving and handling, toileting, showering, dealing with incontinence, etc, are probably fairly new to you. It is important that you take advice on how to deliver those aspects effectively. Hit those links to read more and learn where to go to get free training, online and in-person. You can also read section 14 of the care certificate for details on the existing standards.

You can also access in-person training on moving and handling from St Johns Ambulance, (which is quite cost-effective and is a good cause to donate to anyway) and a number of other organisations. It is certainly worth getting onto a course when you can.

Behaviour management: Fortunately, you already have a relationship with the person you are looking after, so you are at an advantage. Unfortunately, you will also have the baggage of that relationship. In addition, you will have to deal with your relationship changing, as they become more reliant on you.

Managing their behaviour may seem like an odd way to think about it, however, when someone is suffering from a psychological issue, is isolated or just bored, you are going to have to proactively manage this. The best carers employ a number of techniques to manage this, such as disengagement and distraction, many of which can be found in our article on dementia. You can stop boredom and isolation by getting them to social activities.

 You can also learn more about this, by reading sections 6 and 9 of the Care Certificate.

Psychological impact: When someone loses some of their independence or part of their ability to think clearly it is very upsetting to them. You will become a big part of their life, and as such, you should be careful to treat them with dignity and their privacy with respect. The care certificate has a whole section on this, due to its importance.

It is also important to look after their mental health and be on the look-out for signs of that falling into disrepair. One thing you can do is keep them mentally active, through activities the can do alone or with you and others.

Managing care: You will be at the heart of a wider care environment of GPs, Nurses, Occupational Health Therapists, Social Services, Professional Carers, Home Assistants, Friends, Family, Neighbours and support groups. Managing everything yourself can be a nightmare, especially if you have kids, a job, a husband/wife, and a social life. We suggest you use one of the following:

  • Jointly is an app created by CarersUK that you can use to help you manage it all, so check that out. 
  • If you are not a fan of apps, buy and keep a dedicated planner, so that you know what is going on.

Identify and track risk: There are many types of risks that you need to identify and manage. Beyond the work you did to set up the home, you should also track medications, and at times fluids and nutrition. It is also a good idea to keep a succinct diary of your interaction with them so that you can share this with your GP when required. This will make the diagnosis of any issues much faster.

One risk that is often overlooked is the vulnerability of people living alone, so it is also a good idea to ensure that you reduce the risk of them falling victim to an opportunist as well.

You may want to do this a little more professionally, here we have a dedicated carer risk assessment, which you may find useful.

The more advanced stuff:

It would be irresponsible to go into detail on anything more than we have already, in any case, anything more specific will be taught to you by your GP, District Nurse and/or Occupational health therapist.

Where you need them, you will be shown how to use hoists, PEG feeding, Colostomy care, Catheter Care, etc, so be sure to pay close attention and take notes or a video, when you are being shown.

Get trained up:

The care certificate is the fastest, most cost-efficient way to train yourself up to deliver care. We have already cited a number of modules from it, however, due to its brevity (Only 40 hours), it is worthwhile doing the whole thing.

To access the online training, you must first register and complete the self-assessment. This will give you an idea of how much you already know in-depth, what you feel competent to do, as well as what you need to learn. This allows you to focus on areas in which you are weakest, so is a fantastic place to start. There are plenty of resources online, we recommend: 

Complete the course by selecting the workbooks, and working through the modules. The e-learning is free and easy to use and can be accessed through your account. The e-learning should take you about 40 hrs to complete.

If you want to get the certificate (which is nice to have) you can ask an independent assessor/moderator, who is accredited with an assessor’s award, to sign you off. We would be happy to put you in touch. Alternatively, you can pay Skills For Care a small fee upon registration which will enable you to have your work moderated upon completion. Do remember the care certificate is not a qualification, it is a learning platform.

Training Hack!

You can also ask any local care agency to send you on their training course, for a fee.

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James Bowdler


I founded and manage PrimeCarers, a Platform that connects Private Clients with Private Carers near them.

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