Jo Whiley joins Smart Energy GB to help manage carers to-do lists
On average, unpaid carers put in 27 hours per week on top of their own work or family commitments, but one in 10 put in 66 hours or longer.
Despite the difficulties they face, three quarters believe caring for someone has been the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done.
DJ and campaigner Jo Whiley joins Smart Energy GB and Carers UK to highlight simple life hacks for carers to help save time and get more peace of mind when caring for someone else.
Helping out a relative or loved one with day-to-day tasks is something that many people do regularly, but new research has found that over 13 million people in the UK fit the definition of a carer and the majority of them do not realise it.
Over a quarter (26%) are providing some sort of care role to someone else, outside of their own home and new research by Smart Energy GB has found that 73% of unpaid carers do not describe themselves as carers at all.
This is despite putting in an average of 27 hours of care per week on top of their own work and family commitments. furthermore, 1 in 10 unpaid carers reported that they spend 66 hours or more per week helping someone else, far exceeding the time spent at a traditional full-time job.
Despite the incredible time commitment, carers are remaining positive, with three quarters finding caring for a friend or relative the most rewarding thing that they have ever done, with 4 in 10 unpaid carers providing care not out of a sense of duty, but because they really want to.
To help make life that little bit easier and provide more peace of mind when looking after someone else, Smart Energy GB and charity Carers UK have teamed up with DJ and campaigner Jo Whiley. Well known for her work championing those who give and receive care and with experience of looking after her sister Frances who has learning difficulties, Jo Whiley explores some of the simple things that can benefit both caregivers and those they care for.
With one in three carers handling bills and other payments for someone else, requesting a smart meter could make managing energy easier all around. Available at no extra cost from energy suppliers, smart meters have many benefits for households, but the impact these have on people with caring responsibilities can be substantial but not always fully realised.
Having a smart meter installed for the person you look after means meter readings are sent to energy suppliers automatically and bills are always accurate, which is one thing off the to do list; a little life hack for those in the know!
What’s more, a handy in-home display will show how much energy is used in near-real time, which can be especially helpful when budgeting during the winter months.
Jo Whiley said:
“Caring for someone can be simultaneously one of the most fulfilling things you could ever do, but also one of the most challenging.
“I’ve teamed up with Smart Energy GB to help highlight some quick and easy ways to save time and effort, so carers can worry less about their to do list and spend more time doing what really matters – enjoying being with the ones they love.
“Getting a smart meter installed for the person you look after is just one of these life hacks, as it means meter readings are sent automatically to energy suppliers and you don’t need to do it for them. It’s a really simple thing that many people in that situation don’t realise could help you both.”
Smart Energy GB and Carers UK have published a full list of life hacks for carers, available at SmartEnergyGB.org and below:
1. Food for thought
If you’re responsible for someone else’s meals, planning what you’re going to make in advance, or even preparing food in batches, is a simple way to free up some time later on. What’s more, batch cooking can be a far more energy efficient way to prepare food.
If you need help getting started, there are a wide range of tools available. There are free meal planners available online which could help you plan what to buy each week.
There are also many smartphone apps which could give you ideas for meals, nutritional tips and reminders when you’re running low. Just search ‘meal planner’ in your phone’s app store.
2. Make time for yourself
Whether you’re caring for one or several people, it’s important to allocate moments for yourself.
Finding time to reflect, meditate, exercise or do anything that gives you mental and physical space could help you develop resilience for when you need it most.
3. Keeping connected
Many carers will be part of the so-called 'Sandwich Generation', responsible for both older relatives or loved ones and children.
Apps such as Jointly, created by Carers UK, allow you to communicate and coordinate with others who might be able to help share the caring responsibilities with you, bringing everyone in your circle together in one place to plan, share or just chat.
Other benefits include keeping records in one place, creating task lists for each other, monitoring past and current medication or using the calendar to create time-specific events. Keeping everyone in the loop with what’s happening and when means you can share the load.
4. Keep your home safe
Installing a door video system could be helpful, regardless of whether you receive or give care support. Doing so at the home of someone you care for, with their permission, could provide more peace of mind. There may be grants or other financial support available to help with any costs – find out more at carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-household-finances/grants
For those dealing with dementia, unexpected callers can be a worrying prospect. If you look after someone with dementia or a memory impairment, connecting a video doorbell to your smartphone can allow you to monitor who is coming and going from a property. This can even enable you to speak to a caller via your device on behalf of the home’s occupant if required. There are many options and brands available.
5. Free legal advice for carers
You need information so you can make informed choices both for yourself and the person(s) you care for, and sometimes that means taking advice from an expert. It may be the case that you need to discuss your employment rights as a carer (if you juggle working and caring), paying care fees, Power of Attorney, the Mental Capacity Act, the Court of Protection, complaints and claims, information sharing and much more.
If you feel you might benefit from legal advice, find out what help is available in your area, contact your local care groups, local authority or search online for reputable companies offering ‘free legal advice for carers’ in your area.
6. Medication management
There are handy devices available to help if you aren’t always around to ensure medication is dispensed at the right time for someone you support. Some types can conveniently remind someone to take the right medication, while also issuing the correct dosage at the right time. Many of these have safety locks to stop someone from taking too much. While others include alerts, which can be sent to you (and other contacts) if medication hasn’t been taken when it should. These can be picked up at your local pharmacy, or from specialist health providers and from reputable companies online, too.
7. Find time for fitness
If you or someone you support finds it difficult to exercise regularly, there are specific apps to help that can be downloaded on any smartphone or tablet, as well as on websites. They can be motivating by helping you keep track of your fitness progress. They can also help someone build strength, durability, and improve muscle tone, as part of a routine that can be tailored to the individual.
8. Make energy management easier
If you care for a relative or someone else close to you, a smart meter could help you both. Installed at no extra cost by your energy supplier, a smart meter will send automatic meter readings so neither of you will need to remember to do it manually. This also ensures your bill is accurate and not an estimate, so you only pay for what you use.
Smart meters come with a handy in-home display which will show you how much energy you’re using in near-real time and what it costs, helping you to budget more effectively.
An accessible in-home display (IHD) has also been developed in partnership with the Royal National institute for Blind People which will audibly tell you how much energy you’re using and could help support those with visual impairment or sight loss.
You could contact your energy supplier to find out more about upgrading to a smart meter and the option of an accessible in-home display.
9. Simple security measures
Making sure the home of anyone you care for is secure each night can be time consuming and a potential source of concern, so taking things off the checklist or being able to do them remotely could be a simple way to sleep more soundly.
Widely available tech such as electronic curtain closing, remote locking mechanisms and wireless security cameras may help provide an extra level of protection and peace of mind.
10. Property exit sensors and GPS trackers
In a similar fashion to a door video system, exit sensors from your home let you know when someone has left the property. A vital feature allows you to monitor their movements on a smartphone app. If you’re caring for someone who is often confused or has memory loss, it’s a worry they could wander from their home and get lost. The exit sensor will ease those concerns. They can be found at specialist product providers or other online retailers, as well as home and electrical stores and businesses that provide security products. You can read more about technological solutions at carersuk.org/help-and-advice/technology-and-equipment/where-to-find-tech
Phillippa Brown, Deputy Director of Specialist Audiences at Smart Energy GB, said:
“Whether you consider yourself a carer or not, anyone who is regularly taking time out of their day to help someone else is doing an absolutely vital job and it’s important to make as easy as possible.
“Those with caring responsibilities are often working the equivalent hours of a full-time job, and more sometimes, so it can be easy to lose track of the smaller tasks. Getting a smart meter installed at the home of someone you look after can help you both as it means you no longer have to remember to submit meter readings and ensures that bills are accurate. This lets you cross energy management off the list for good and makes dealing with bills easier for everyone. Contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter at no extra cost.”
To further support vulnerable customers, particularly those who are blind, partially sighted, or have difficulties with dexterity or memory loss, an accessible in-home display has been developed with help from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. This new display audibly tells you how much energy you’re using in near-real time and can help more people fully access their energy information.
Contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter at no extra cost or visit smartenergygb.org.
Notes to editors
Research was carried out by OnePoll for Smart Energy GB and surveyed 1,000 caregivers 15/11/21 to 19/11/21.
About smart meters and the rollout
Smart meters are the next generation of digital gas and electricity meters, providing automatic meter readings and near-real time energy use information for households and small businesses.
Smart meters and the information they provide will help Britain to achieve net zero by allowing for better management of energy demand and supply, providing people with the visibility needed to reduce their usage, and making the best and most efficient use of wind and solar power. Innovative technology and services enabled by smart metering is pivotal in allowing our country to decarbonise and have more electric vehicles. 25.2 million smart meters have already been installed across Britain.
About Smart Energy GB
Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit, government-backed campaign helping everyone in Britain to understand the importance of smart meters and their benefits to people and the environment. Our national campaign is reaching homes and microbusinesses across England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit smartenergyGB.org
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