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Like many carers, you may have had no health or social care experience when you started looking after someone.

In the early days of caring you might not even need any particular skills, especially if you’re just keeping an eye on an elderly relative or helping someone to wash, get dressed or preparing simple meals.

As time goes by, however, carers often find themselves undertaking more and more tasks which demand more than a vague awareness of medical or social care matters.

Practical training

The important thing is to ask yourself is what can you already do and what do you think you need training for?

Perhaps you need practical training to use specialist equipment like a hoist or to care for someone who has bed sores or uses oxygen, or other medical equipment.

If the cared-for person has been provided with special equipment, for example, a hoist or stair lift, their occupational therapist (OT) will show you how to use it. If in doubt about anything, ask questions.

If you have a community alarm or sensors fitted in your home, the OT will explain how to use everything.

Similarly, if you are carrying out nursing tasks, for example, changing a dressing, administering oxygen or feeding someone through a tube, the community nurse will take time to make sure you understand exactly what to do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

In some local authority areas, carers are encouraged to attend free courses, for example:

  • First aid awareness
  • Basic care of medicines
  • Manual handling
  • Managing challenging behaviour.

Looking after someone with a long-term condition

If you are looking after someone with a long-term condition, you might be interested in attending a course called Looking After Me.

Other training

Not all training focuses on the cared-for person – it’s just as important that you feel confident and emotionally able to look after someone.

Non-practical training may include:

  • Carers’ rights
  • Confidence-building
  • Nutrition
  • Handling stress
  • Carers’ rights in the workforce.

Different courses may be offered in some local council areas.

How to find out more

To find out what free training is available for carers in your area, contact the local carers support group or carers centre, or your local county voluntary council.

Online courses

FutureLearn has free short online courses, including courses on health and psychology, many of which may be of interest to carers.