Carers are not a generic group, with common circumstances and problems.
Staff should be trained and encouraged to avoid stereotypes. Carers can be young, can be parents, and can have learning difficulties and so on. 42% of carers are men and 18% of carers look after more than one person.
There may be more than one carer involved in looking after a particular patient. Each carer may have very different needs and views. They may even be in conflict with each other.
There will often be ‘mutual caring’ arrangements. An elderly couple will often be carers of each other, as will an elderly parent with an adult child with a learning disability.
Sometimes the patient may not be keen on their carer being identified and classified as such, for various reasons.
The main, or only, carer may not necessarily be the next of kin.
The carer may be registered with a different practice. This, of course, does not stop the practice communicating information to that practice, with the permission of the carer.
You may also want to develop a system with your local carers centre whereby they let you know which of your patients are carers.
There are various models of joint working between carers centres and primary care. Many projects use primary care link workers who work closely with individual practices. By contrast, other centres have worked more closely with community nurses rather than directly with GPs, and also find this to be very effective.
Once you’ve identified that a patient is a carer
- Establish the level of caring commitment and support.
- Gain consent from the carer to be recorded as carer.
- Always ask the patient if they are happy for health information about them to be told to their carer.
- Develop a carers’ register by marking the personal record of those carers identified.
- Give information to the carer about the range of support services that are available to them, both in the surgery and from outside agencies, especially the details of the local carers centre.
- Carers should routinely be informed that they can ask their Local Authority for a carer’s assessment.
- Give the carer appropriate information about the condition and health needs of the person they care for.
- Give information to help them with regard to the kind of care they may be providing, such as administering medication, moving and handling, PEG feeding, supporting someone with a severe and enduring mental health condition.