Carers UK defines carers as people who provide unpaid care by looking after someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill. These people are called carers but they would probably say they were just "looking after someone".
Carers help with personal things like getting someone dressed, turning them in their sleep, helping them to the bathroom, helping them move about or administering their medication. Carers also help with things like shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, filling in forms or managing money.
Caring is different from mainstream childcare responsibilities and needs a separate response from employers and managers. For example:
- Caring for a sick or disabled relative or friend can happen overnight
- Caring can be hard to plan and to cope with emotionally
- Caring has different 'milestones'
For example, regarding milestones, the birth of a child is a cause for celebration, the onset of Alzheimer's Disease is not; a child starting school is seen as positive, unlike a disabled child moving to a residential special school placement; a teenager leaving home to go to university is a cause for congratulations, unlike an adult moving into residential care. And the ultimate caring milestone, euphemistically referred to as 'when caring ends', is someone passing away.
As an organisation you may find it helpful to have your own definition for carers. This is particularly useful if you are looking to develop a carers policy. It can also help when distinguishing between the needs of those with caring responsibilities and those with childcare issues.
Employers for Carers has developed the following definition as a best practice example:
Carers are employees with caring responsibilities that have an impact on their working lives. These employees are responsible for the care and support of relatives or friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill who are unable to care for themselves.
This definition is used by many of our member organisations and can be adapted to suit the needs of your particular organisation.