Your GP (General Practitioner) and primary care team can provide you with invaluable support, advice and information.
A helpful starting point to getting the support you need as a carer is to let your GP know. There are also many services that can support you to look after your own health including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, continence advisers and dieticians which they can direct you to.
This section provides some more details about the type of support your primary care team can offer.
What should I tell my GP?
Tell your GP that you have caring responsibilities as soon as possible. They can then record this on your medical records.
If they know you are a carer and likely to be under pressure at times, they will be able to offer more tailored advice and, if necessary, provide more support when they diagnose and treat you in the future. GPs in England are being urged to adopt new measures dedicated to ensuring young carers are offered flu vaccinations, regular health check ups and mental health screening routinely. We hope this initiative will also be extended more widely in the UK and to adult carers. You could ask your GP or local practice for more information.
If you’re a carer, your GP could help
- provide information and advice on:
- medical conditions of and treatments for the person you care for to help you feel more confident in your caring role.
- services provided by the NHS such as continence services and patient transport to hospital appointments.
- other sources of support and advice. This could include the social services department and local voluntary agencies.
- arrange home visits to you or the person you care for if your caring responsibilities make it difficult to attend appointments at the surgery.
- arrange ‘double’ appointments for both you and the person you care for at the same time to avoid having to visit the surgery twice.
- arrange for repeat prescriptions to be delivered to your local pharmacy to save you picking them up.
- provide supporting letters and information to enable you and the person you care for to access benefits such as Attendance Allowance or a blue badge scheme.
Life can become very hectic especially if you have lots of caring responsbilities, but it’s important not to neglect your own health needs. Attending appointments, check-ups and screenings is vital for yourself as well as any loved ones.
If you have not seen your GP for some time, why not arrange a health check? This is likely to involve checking your blood pressure, weight and urine as well as a general discussion about your health. Your pharmacist can also help.
If you are ill or have health concerns
Carers sometimes carry on regardless through coughs, flu, stomach upsets and worse; but don’t put off seeing your doctor if you feel faint or dizzy or have unexplained or prolonged pains. Seeing your doctor can lead to the problem being dealt with more quickly and effectively. Even with minor illnesses, try and take some time to rest. Your body will have a better chance of making a quick recovery and you will have less chance of the illness lingering on.
The Primary Care Team
Your primary care team is much more than just your GP. Below are just some of those who are involved in primary care:
Most doctors’ practices now have a practice nurse. Their role does differ from practice to practice, but they are often involved in routine health checks and nursing care. It might be useful to talk to the practice nurse if you have any concerns or would like more information about a certain aspect of your health.
District nurses provide support to individuals and carers in their own homes. They are normally based in GP surgeries and your surgery or GP can provide more advice on accessing their support and assistance. Your district nurse may be able to help by:
- carrying out treatments such as dressing wounds or giving injections to avoid you and the person you care for having to visit the surgery
- assisting with rehabilitation after an illness or operation
- supporting you in caring if the person you care for has a terminal illness
- giving you advice and assistance in aspects of health care of the person you care for. This could include providing guidance and training on lifting and handling more safely, first aid and administering medication or treatments.
- advising you on your own health care and preventing ill health
- arranging for the provision of equipment for the person you care for such as walking aids or bed rails
- putting you in touch with other community, social and voluntary services who can assist you.
Health visitors provide support to people of all ages and will normally be based at your GP’s surgery. Your health visitor may be able help you as a carer by:
- providing information on health and illness prevention.
- providing access to screening services.
- providing support to parent carers and advice on care, support services, benefits and adaptations for disabled children.