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Carers' guide to coping when we're caring for more than one person

Woman holding a baby, next to someone with their leg in a cast, and another older lady in a dress

Taking care of one person is hard enough, but looking after multiple people can feel like we’re constantly spinning plates. We may have different schedules, medications and safety worries constantly on our minds. Whether it's looking after kids and ageing parents, or supporting family members and friends, the pressure can be intense.

40%* of carers shared they look after more than one person

Multi-caring roles come in all shapes and sizes, and it makes up a large chunk of our community. According to Mobilise data, nearly 40%* of carers find themselves in situations where they care for more than one person, with some of us looking after five or more people at the same time.

We may already have the support we need, while others might not even realise that they’re a carer. The role can creep up on us slowly, without us really noticing. Even if we've been caring for someone for a while, with knowledge and experience that will help from the start, it can still feel overwhelming to take on more responsibilities. 

This can be tough, tiring, frustrating, and fulfilling all at the same time. That’s why today, we're focusing on those of us who look after more than one person. We've reached out to our community to share practical tips and strategies for juggling multiple caring roles, while also finding ways to look after ourselves.

What does a multi-caring role look like?

Having multiple caring roles can look a number of different ways, and will ultimately be unique to us. Some of the most common multi-caring roles happen when we're already caring for say a child or our partner, but then find our parents require care as they age, possibly making us a sandwich carer

If we already have a caring role that isn’t for our Mum or Dad, we might be aware of our parents' decline in health as they age. While it can be hard to think about, it is worth being aware and prepared where we can.

"I've been carer to my son for 14 years now. He has complex needs, and needs full care. We get very tired. More recently, both my parents have required care. I'm being pulled in so many directions. There's never really any time to come to terms with anything, as we're so busy juggling everyone's needs."

Of course this isn't the only route into multi-caring, and as carers already we're probably more highly tuned to notice the care needs of those around us

Many carers will naturally have a high level of empathy for others, making it possible for us to take care of someone and understand their needs. This can also mean we are more likely to step in if we notice someone around us is struggling. This could look like seeing our elderly neighbour has no support and is increasingly struggling with daily activities such as shopping or paying bills and slowly taking on more and more to try and help.

Our second or third caring roles can sneak up on us, little by little. What can start as an offer to help now and then can gradually increase in responsibilities before we know it. 

There can also be situations where we are temporarily caring for someone else. For example our partner, friend or other family member might break their leg or have an operation prompting us to step in and help them out for a time. Even knowing it has a time limit can still be challenging when trying to juggle the additional responsibilities around our existing caring role.

What impact does this have on us as carers?

Let's talk about the important stuff: the toll it takes on us. Trying to be everything to everyone can leave us feeling like we're drowning in responsibilities - and it can manifest in lots of different ways:

  • Feeling stressed: Juggling everything can leave us feeling frazzled and burntout.

  • Feeling overwhelmed: There's always so much to do, it can feel like we're drowning in responsibilities.

  • Scared to take a break: We worry everything will fall apart if we stop for even a short moment.

  • Trouble sleeping: All the worrying can keep us up at night.

  • Money worries: We stress about how we'll manage financially.

  • No time for ourselves: We struggle to find time for sleep, exercise or doing things we enjoy.

  • Feeling lonely: We don't get much time to see friends or do fun stuff, and it feels like we've lost ourselves in caring for others.

  • Feeling guilty: We feel bad for not doing more and unable to balance everything

  • Forgetting self-care: Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, like skipping meals or showers.

  • Feeling annoyed: We can get mad when we see others having fun while we're stuck with responsibilities.

  • No recognition or support: We don't feel appreciated or like we're getting help when we need it.

  • Always tired: We're worn out all the time, with no chance to rest and recharge.

"I'm so tired. I've sought help from counsellors, coaches, and self-help programmes, and they all preach the same message - I need to prioritise myself and put on my own oxygen mask before assisting others. But how is that even possible when I'm juggling a full-time job, raising two happy children, and providing support to adults who, through no fault of their own, are unable to help themselves, whether physically or mentally?"

If this all sounds familiar, know that we're not alone. Many carers have felt the same way as we’re feeling right now. The first step in finding a positive solution is recognising these emotions. From here, we can start to work out what we need to feel good again.

Carer’s top tips for coping with more than one care role

When we're overwhelmed with all of these emotions, it can be tough to figure out what to do next. But if we're part of Mobilise, we've got a whole network of carers who understand and can offer support. We reached out to our community of carers— to find small, simple changes to our routines that can make a big difference in our health and happiness.

Schedule time for self care

Person in a bathtub smiling

Plan some time for ourselves to relax and take care of our own needs. If going out isn't possible, we could find things we can do at home. We could order a tasty meal, have someone come over to do our nails, enjoy a bubble bath, or spend 30 minutes playing video games. We could also arrange for someone to help out so we can have this time for ourselves, whether it's friends, family, or paid carers.

“I’ve been told by a therapist that my adrenaline has probably run out and I’m running on the stress hormone cortisol. It’s causing havoc with my physical health.  I’ve been told to make sure I’m doing short activities to switch off my brain, and ideally activities that produce some of the happy hormones like oxytocin. With the hope I can bring back some balance. Otherwise, my own health is really going to suffer longer term.”

We may also want to try some activities which can help us to regulate our emotions and find a moment of calm, such as creating art, tai-chi, journaling, or creative writing.

Remind ourselves of all that we do

As carers, it’s easy to feel like we ‘should’ be doing more. Instead of sitting in this mindset, try flipping the thinking on its head and consider all the things we do well instead. This can be especially helpful if we're feeling guilty. We’re probably doing so much more than we realise! We could even make a list on our phone's notes app that we can revisit whenever we doubt ourselves.

“Take a moment to say hello to yourself in the mirror. Whether you smile or shed a tear with your reflection, take note of just how wondrous you truly are.”

Check what support we’re eligible for

Have we made sure we’re accessing all the extra help we can? Taking on another care role might mean we can get more financial or hands-on support, so it's a good idea to check, even if we’ve been through the process before. 

A good place to start is our guide for registering as a carer. From here, we can complete a carer’s assessment for ourselves and a care needs assessment for the person we're caring for. Both are important for identifying the specific types of assistance and services that would best meet our needs.

"Call your local Adult Social Care department and request a Carer's assessment for yourself, along with needs assessments for those you look after. I understand these services can be overstretched, but it's important to advocate for yourself.”

Speak to our employer if we’re working

A lady working at her desk talking to her laptop

Talking to our boss can be helpful if we have a job and our care responsibilities are increasing. They might let us work more flexibly or reduce our hours. Our guide to working and caring has more helpful tips and advice for starting this conversation.

"I had to take a step back and reduce my work hours because I felt overwhelmed and like I was drowning. It allowed me to better manage household chores, spend time with family, and prioritise self-care, which is incredibly important. Trust me, even just half an hour of alone time, even if it's just sitting in the car listening to music away from everyone, can make a world of difference."

Consider paid care if we can afford it

We know this isn't possible for everyone, but if it's an option, we can look into finding paid caregivers or care services. We can search online or ask for recommendations from friends, family, or local community organisations. Some websites also offer details of care providers in our area. We have more information about finding paid care in our detailed guide to getting help at home.

We can use Autumna's free shortlist service to find out what suitable local options are available to us.

A pink spotty mug of tea

Create moments of micro respite

Even small breaks, like making a cup of tea or doing a quick 5-minute stretch, can help us relax and breathe. It can work wonders for reducing our stress levels. Check out our guide to micro-respite for more ideas on how to incorporate these gentle moments into our day.

Speak to someone removed from the situation

Many carers say that talking to a therapist is a lifeline. As they're not directly involved in our caring situation, we can open up to them without worrying about judgement. Therapy can give us ways to handle stress and feel better overall. Check out our guide to accessing therapy to learn more about how it can help.

Someone sat in a chair speaking to a therapist

“I recommend paying for therapy! It's a great place to unload all your baggage. It can help you cope with the pressures you're facing without losing yourself. Therapy will give you a better understanding of yourself and it will help you to make the decisions that are right for you.”

Check out local community groups and charities

We could explore local community groups and charities for support. They may host activities like tea mornings, art classes and social meets where carers can take a break and meet others who understand all we’re going through.

Utilise apps that can streamline things

Technology is a carer’s best friend. From managing schedules to tracking medications, these tools can streamline our day-to-day tasks. Take a look at our guide to the best apps for busy carers for inspiration on what to download.

Make our chore time ‘ours’

When doing boring household chores, we can make the time more enjoyable by multitasking with activities we love. For example, we can listen to podcasts while cooking, watch YouTube tutorials while doing dishes, or use waiting room time to learn a new language or engage in a hobby.

Establish healthy boundaries where we can

When it comes to asking for help, we understand it can be tough. But setting some boundaries is important to prevent feeling overwhelmed. This might look like always have thirty minutes to ourselves each day. Not taking on certain tasks, such as personal hygiene care. Finding ways to step away for a minute when things feel overwhelming. Or we might wish to talk to neighbours, friends, or family about what help we need and what we can reasonably manage on our own.

Remember our ‘why’

When we’re in the thick of caring, it’s easy to feel weighed down. Reflecting on the meaningful impact taking care of someone has on their lives can help us stay motivated and positive. We know it's not always easy, but knowing we're making a difference in someone's life can give us a renewed sense of purpose.

Get any symptoms checked out

When everyone else is unwell, It’s easy to forget that our health is important too. If we're not feeling our best, it’s important to get it checked out. Regular check-ups can help us stay on top of any health issues, like vitamin deficiencies that might be making us feel more exhausted than we need to be.

Understand what we can control (and what we can’t)

Finally, some things in life are out of our control, and that's okay. Focus on managing the things we can influence, like our own actions and reactions. Having a plan for emergencies can give us peace of mind too.

For the things beyond our control, it's best to do what we can to let go and try not to stress over them. Accepting what we can't change can help to relieve unnecessary guilt and blame.

Q&A: Ask a carer

Speech bubbles

Can I get Carers' Allowance for multiple people?

In the UK, you can only receive Carer's Allowance once, regardless of how many caring roles you have. To be eligible for carers allowance we'll need to spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone who receives certain benefits. Find out more about Carer’s Allowance, or use the free claim checker tool here

Do I need a separate care needs assessment for each person I care for?

Yes, we need separate care needs assessments for each person we care for. Each assessment will evaluate the unique needs of each person we're caring for. If we’ve taken on caring for another person, it’s important to have our carer’s assessment reassessed, to take account of our new needs. Read our in-depth guides for more information on how to arrange these assessments.

How can I get respite?

Respite care can provide us with a break from the always on nature of caring. We might be eligible for respite care through our local council, although we know it can be very difficult to secure funding. Usually, respite will involve arranging for someone to come and take over our caring duties for a short period of time, allowing us to rest and recharge, or it may involve the use of a care home. Check out our guide on getting respite care for more information.

Can I refuse to take on an extra caring role?

Yes, we have the right to refuse to take on an extra caring role if it would negatively impact our wellbeing, or we just don’t want to. It's important to be realistic about whether we can offer the level of care that’s needed, and our health matters too. If we’re unsure how to handle this situation, check out our content on ending your caring role for helpful guidance.

A final word...

In wrapping up, being a carer to multiple people brings extra challenges, but the whole Mobilise community is here and understands. 

Remember, we can connect with others just like us on the Mobilise Hub, a supportive environment for people in all different kinds of caring roles to swap advice, information and support. 

*Data from our monthly Mobilise Moment survey


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