In the UK over 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week. And those caring for veterans may face additional difficulties, due to life-changing injuries that make day-to-day living even more challenging.
Looking after yourself
According to Carers UK those providing care are twice as likely to be permanently sick themselves, so it's important to try and stay one step ahead. Do you need help managing your general stress levels for instance? Combat Stress is the UK's leading charity for veterans' mental health. The charity's free and confidential Helpline is available 24-hour to all veterans and serving personnel, as well as families, friends and carers on 0800 138 1619. Visit the Combat Stress website to learn more about the work they do, and how they can help you. Please be aware as of Monday 27 January 2020 Combat Stress will not be taking new referrals in England and Wales. Referrals will continue as usual in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland.
For those with additional challenges, such as sight-impairment, Blind Veterans UK provide sessions addressing the emotional and practical aspects of caring. Find out more and download their carers leaflet.
Sometimes all the responsibilities can feel too much. Don't be embarrassed about reaching out to the Samaritans who are always available (and are Veterans' Gateway Crisis partner). And Veterans' Gateway staff are on hand 24/7. You can speak to one of our team and we will put you in touch with the help you need, or direct you to the information you are looking for.
Are you claiming all the benefits you're entitled to?
We've found that veterans and their carers often don't know about all the free advice and support out there. Help for Heroes "beneficiaries" also include families and their carers, and the organisation provides help with navigating the appropriate support. If you're already claiming your pension make sure you're receiving all you're entitled to by contacting the Forces Pension Society to access experts in Armed Forces pension matters. Visit Blesma's (Blesma, The Limbless Veterans) benefits for carers page too for advice about the Carers Allowance and download their Carers Allowance leaflet.
Get help with practicalities
Carers are often responsible for trying to adapt facilities for their loved ones. Contact SSAFA for advice on applying for disabled facilities grants to adapt your home. And their volunteer caseworkers can also help deliver household goods. Blind Veterans UK also offers free support to carers who look after visually impaired veterans. Additionally, The Royal British Legion offers a range of advice from applying for mobility grants to household adaption and equipment, find out more in their Guide to Independent Living
Give yourself a break
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Poppy Scotland's new Break Away Service is available to veterans aged over 65 with an accompanying partner or carer. All applications are assessed on a basis of welfare need and means. Other options include Welfare breaks provided by The RAF Benevolent Fund, supporting all members of the RAF family. Blind Veterans UK also provide respite for veterans to give family members and carers a well-earned break.
Short breaks and respite care are also available for ex-service personnel via the Cobseo Care Home Cluster. Visit their website to see a directory of the services available.
Keep up to date with the latest legislation
From the Carers and Direct Payment Act (Northern Ireland) 2002 to the The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 you'll find lots more information in our Self Help section. Use the search box or select Living Independently/Care and view a selection of answers around legislation. See too our list of other organisations that can help
Remember that Veterans' Gateway is here to support you 24/7. Carer Stephen Burnell benefited from a referral through our service and like many he says "I honestly didn't know that support existed"
You are not alone
In fact, caring is even more prevalent with veterans than among the civilian population, where 1 in 5 members of the ex-Service community have some unpaid responsibility as a carer for a family member, friend, or neighbour, accounting for approximately 990,000 people. Thanks to research undertaken by The Royal British Legion, we have a breakdown of some of these care responsibilities.
In total, 23% of those aged 16-64 in the ex-Service community have a caring responsibility, compared with 12% in this age group nationally. Those of retirement age are almost as likely to have a caring responsibility (18%) as younger people (23%).
Those with a long-term illness or disability are more likely to have their own caring responsibilities for someone else (23%) than those without an illness (17%).
One in four dependent spouses (both married and divorced or separated) have caring responsibilities, as do one in four of those aged 45-74 (the two are likely to be related).
Caring responsibilities are most likely to be due to a physical health need, particularly old age, but others care for those with dementia and mental illnesses.
One in ten of all carers in the ex-Service community agree that they struggle to cope with their caring responsibilities; equivalent to around 110,000 people. With carers aged 75-84 and those with a long-term illness themselves are slightly more likely to agree (around 15%).
We know that unpaid carers are more likely to feel lonely. Research from Carers UK shows that more than 8 in 10 unpaid carers described themselves as “lonely or socially isolated” due to their caring responsibilities.
Whether you're at the beginning of your caring journey, or just needing extra help, we've pulled together a selection of advice from our partners, from self care to claiming benefits and more.