Becoming a carer
Last updated: 11 November 2019


A carer is someone who is unpaid and supports a friend or family member who needs help. This person could have an illness, disability, mental health problem, or addiction.

A young carer usually looks after a parent or a sibling and is:

  • Under 18 years old
  • 18 years old and still at school

Many people do not recognise themselves as carers. You do not have to be related to, or live with, the person to be a carer.

What carers do

There are many ways you might care for someone else, which include:

  • practical tasks – like cooking, housework and shopping
  • physical support – like lifting, helping someone on stairs or with physiotherapy
  • personal care – like washing, dressing and helping with toileting needs
  • managing the household budget and collecting benefits and prescriptions
  • giving medication
  • emotional support
  • making sure the rights of the person you care for are being met

This could take up some or all of your time and involve:

  • visiting a relative who lives far away once a month
  • arranging hospital appointments for someone
  • dropping in daily to a nearby disabled friend to give them a meal and company
  • moving in with a relative to help them get better after an operation
  • being there to provide 24 hour constant care for a partner

You're not considered a carer if the care being provided is part of a contract of employment or through voluntary work.

Caring for someone who is unwell can take its toll on your physical and mental health.

Carers Scotland have information on how to make sure you're looking after your health as a carer.

Being a carer can put pressure on relationships with partners, children, other family members and friends. You may feel like you're juggling your time and trying to keep others happy. You might have feelings of guilt and resentment about your role.

Carers Scotland offer advice on maintaining relationships as a carer.

As a carer, you may find it difficult to balance work with caring responsibilities. Carer Positive helps employers to create a supportive working environment for carers.

For more information visit Carer Positive.

Looking after someone can be a big part of your life. Your caring role will change over time and can end for a variety of reasons. This can be a period of uncertainty and mixed feelings.

Visit Carers Scotland for support and advice for dealing with a death is available if you need it.

Your rights as a carer

The Carers' charter explains what your rights are under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.