When caring ends
For some people, caring may last a short time. For others, it can be a life long role.
Caring can come to an end for a number of reasons: the person being cared for gets better, becomes more independent or can no longer be cared for at home.
For some carers, it may be because the person they have been caring for has died.
The end of your caring responsibilities can be a very difficult and distressing time. You may feel a whole range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, guilt.... Along with these feelings, it can come as a shock to realise how much of your life you have put into your caring role.
Many carers can become isolated, as their caring responsibilities leave them with little time to maintain social contacts. This can mean that after caring ends, you may not have a social network to support you through this time when making the transition from being a carer to having no caring role.
Whatever your situation, it is important to realise that you are not alone, help and support is available.
Losing someone you love is very painful, and it can be even more painful if you have been caring for that person. After a significant loss, you may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger and guilt.
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss.
Take your time and don't be rushed into things either by yourself or by other people's expectations of you. You deserve time to grieve and to rest. There is life after caring, but it may take some time before you want or are able to move on or make decisions.
It is often a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings. The best help and support often comes from people who care about you, like friends and relatives. Talking about what has happened, and about the person who died, can help you to come to terms with their death, and to cope with the feelings you have.
Sometimes sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help: look for a bereavement support group in your area or online, or contact a trained professional with experience in grief counselling.
Carers Direct provide further information on dealing with bereavement, support available and also practical advice - Carers Direct Bereavement Support.
Cruse Bereavement Care is a national charity for bereaved people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We offer support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies and work to enhance society’s care of bereaved people.
The UK Care Guide provides lots of helpful advice and guidance and is a great resource if you have lost a loved one.
Give yourself some 'you' time
Many carers find that the last person they think about is themselves. Now that your caring responsibilities have ended, it may be a good time to concentrate on looking after yourself. You owe yourself some of the care and attention that you have been giving to the person you cared for.
Caring takes its toll on your health - missed meals, broken nights, tiredness, stress, maybe a bad back from lifting. Over time they can add up to a substantial burden on your health and make you feel very unwell. If your own health is worrying you, go and see your doctor.
You may have found that you rarely sat down to a proper meal while you were caring. Now that you don't have to keep going in the same way, take time to prepare meals you enjoy, and to sit down to eat them.
Now that you have more freedom to go out when you want to, it can seem a daunting prospect. It is not easy to start going out after a long period at home, and there may be times when you feel too down to bother. Phone one of the friends you've lost touch with and renew contact, asks your neighbour to go with you to the cinema, or to the pub.
Find out what activities are going on locally, from the paper, the library, or public noticeboards. See if someone will come with you, at least the first time, so that even if the activity turns out to be a disaster you've got a friend to laugh about it with.
If you belonged to a carers' group before, you don't have to give up your membership because you are a former carer.
Many carers find it difficult to adjust when their caring role ends. Daily routines will have been structured around caring tasks for the person you cared for. Suddenly you will have a lot of spare time and many carers are unsure of what to do with it all.
It can take time to feel ready to move on after the loss of your caring role. But there will come a time when you feel like thinking about what to do next and what you would like to do for yourself.
As you start to move on you may feel it is time to develop new interests. Talk to friends or work colleagues to see what they do in their spare time, it could be that they have a hobby you never knew about and they can take you along.
If you have been involved with charities or voluntary organisations while caring you may want to give something back through fundraising or indeed become part of a carer support group, if this is appropriate. Maybe you still feel like taking care of someone in need through volunteering. Or you may like to consider becoming a paid care worker, or returning to education or joining an adult education class.
A lot of carers think about volunteering after their caring comes to an end. There are many reasons why you might find it a good way to spend the time you have now that you no longer have caring duties.
Whatever reason you might find for yourself, as someone who has cared for someone you have a set of invaluable skills that may be of use to support others. This can be incredibly rewarding and also help you come to terms with your own loss. Moreover, volunteering can be a very social activity, and can be a good way to meet new people.
Spend some time thinking which kind of volunteering activities would interest you. Try to get some information about the volunteering opportunities available in your area and see if there is one matching both your interest and the skills you have to offer.
The following links are a good starting point to find out more about volunteering
Learning something new
Learning something new might be an excellent opportunity to invigorate yourself after many years dedicated to caring. Acquiring new skills will also help to build your confidence and to progress any plans to enter further education or to return to work.
There are countless opportunities to learn something new: they can range from a short evening course to a degree; from a DIY class to vocational accredited/certified training.
To choose the right course for you, you should first of all be asking yourself why you want to attend a class. Is it just about time for you or are you planning to use your new skills to return to work? It is also important to estimate how much time you think you will be able to dedicate to learning. Are you ready to be involved full-time or will you be able to give it just a couple of hours a week? Maybe you would prefer e-learning?
For further advice and help finding learning opportunities visit the Adult Education webpages.
Returning to work
When caring ends returning to work may help you regain a sense of purpose and provide a new structure to your life and gain financial security.
As a former carer, you may face the challenges of having been out of the workplace for a while, not being up to date with technology, a lack of confidence, or feel you no longer have the skills you once had. However, you may have acquired new skills as a carer that may be attractive to potential employers.
Indeed, some organisations actively seek to recruit carers and former carers returning to work. A good way to start is to recognise the skills you have. Think about what you have learned from:
- any paid work that you have done in the past
- activities that you do, for example voluntary work, committees, etc
- tasks and responsibilities involved in your role as a carer
Research has shown, in fact, that carers develop several skills that might be useful in a wide range of jobs.
Our balancing work and caring responsibilities webpage also has useful information, advice and tips for those looking to get back into employment.