Adult siblings as carers
As an adult sibling of someone with a lifelong learning disability and/or autism you might provide advocacy and support for your brother or sister, but may not have thought of yourself as a carer.
Some adult siblings think of a carer as an unpaid family member who lives with their brother or sister and helps with:
- Washing and dressing
- Making meals and drinks
- Cleaning and laundry
But the definition of a carer is actually much wider than this. Think about what you do for your brother or sister that you wouldn’t do for an adult without a disability. This might include:
- Answering the phone to your brother five times a day when he calls for support or because he is lonely
- Reading through bills with your sister and helping her to understand them
- Advocating for your brother’s needs at meeting with a social worker
- Phoning a hospital when your sister is admitted to let them know how she prefers to communicate
You do not need to live with your brother or sister to think of yourself as their carer. Some siblings consider themselves ‘distance carers’. You might also find that you are providing emotional and practical support to your parents, who are supporting your disabled brother or sister.
Recognising yourself as a carer
Recognising the role that you play in your brother or sister’s life can help you to access more support for yourself.
Benefits of recognising yourself as a sibling carer:
- Protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010
- Right to request flexible working hours and to have time off in emergency situations
- Recognition of your role within other services e.g. some GP services allow sibling carers and their disabled brother or sister to visit the surgery at the same time to avoid two trips
- A carer’s assessment, to look at the support you need to continue your caring role
- Entitlement to carers allowance, depending on the number of hours you provide care
There are lots of useful resources for carers on the Carers UK website
Look after yourself too
Many adult siblings provide support, advocacy and care for their brothers and sisters, at the same time as juggling support and care for their elderly parents, their own children, and their work.
It’s important to remember that you do not have any legal responsibility to care for your disabled brother or sister – it is your choice whether you become involved in their care or not.
If you are not able to continue with part or all of your caring role, contact adult social care in your brother or sister’s local authority. Ask for an assessment of your brother or sister’s needs – they have a duty to carry this out. Read our guide on getting a care needs assessment for more information [LINK].
You might feel that you have to provide care for your disabled brother or sister. But what you have to do is ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’. You will be unable to care for your brother or sister if you become burnt out and ill. Read top tips for sibling carers in our managing care guide [LINK].
Enjoy time with your brother or sister
Spend time doing things with your brother or sister that you both enjoy, rather than contact time being only caregiving. Read our tips on enjoying time together [LINK] for some fresh ideas on new activities you can try.