Carer support

A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to someone who would not otherwise be able to manage. If you look after someone with a life-limiting illness you may not think of yourself as a carer. If you provide unpaid care and support to a family member, partner or friend, whether it is helping with shopping, taking them to the hospital or just being there when they need to talk then you are playing a vital role in their care.

Without the right support, providing this care can have a big impact on you – physically, emotionally and financially. However you do not have to go through it alone. The Northern Trust would like to ensure that carers have the same help and support as the patient.

What help is available?

There are many organisations offering many different services to help you if you are caring for someone. Even if you have support from healthcare professionals, do not be afraid to ask for help from friends and relatives as they may want to help you too.

Northern Trust support

Northern Trust Carers' Support Service
T: 028 2766 1392
Leaflet providing practical and financial advice for carers

Carers NI 
T: 028 9043 9843

Carers Trust Northern Ireland
M: 0782 451 7064
Good Day Good Carer leaflet
Mind the Gap leaflet

Northern Ireland Hospice Carers' Service
This Service gives carers the opportunity to meet other people going through the same emotional difficulties in their lives and provides information and advice, offers companionship and support to reduce exhaustion and loneliness and offers complementary therapies which can reduce stress, anxiety, tension.
T: 028 9078 1836

Financial support for carers

Carers may face financial costs when they are caring for someone with a life-limiting illness, but there is help available.

If you need advice, please contact the Trust's Carers Co-ordinator on 028 2766 1392.

Other sources of advice

Carers Allowance Unit
T: 028 9090 668

Benefit Enquiry Line
T: 0800 22 06 74

Disability and Carers Service
T: 028 9090 6186

Pension Service
T: 0845 601 8821

Advice NI (independent advice service)
T: 028 90 645919

Employment rights

You may be feeling unsure about whether to stay at work, leave or return to work. You may be self-employed and wondering if you can run a business and be a carer. Remember, you can take your time when making these decisions.

Speak to organisations that can give you independent advice. Having as much information as possible about your rights, who can support you and the options that are available to you is invaluable.

You will also find that speaking openly with the person you are caring for can help. They may surprise you with their thoughts on the situation. Many patients see that work is something that provides carers with a release from their caring role. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is the right thing for you as well as the patient.

Northern Trust leaflet: Employment Rights for family carers

Macmillan Cancer Support leaflet: A practical guide for carers, by carers

Emotional support for carers

The feelings caused by a serious illness can be very strong and can affect a person's behaviour. The person who is ill may be worried, upset or angry; they may cry a lot, or withdraw so that you find it difficult to talk to them, support them or know what they want or need. You may think that there are things you should say or do that will automatically make things easier for the person. If you want to help someone who is facing a difficult time, just wanting to help and offering to be there for that person is what matters most.

Many people find it difficult to talk to a person who has a life-limiting illness. You may feel you might say the wrong thing or will not be able to talk to the person the way you used to, know what to say or what you can do to help. Many carers and families of a seriously ill person feels like this, even if they are used to dealing with difficult issues in their work lives or in other circumstances -it is very different when it is a personal situation. But by just listening to them talk about their illness and surrounding issues, you can help build a relationship between you both that allows you to be supportive and to ask and know what your relative or friend needs.

Carers NI 

Carers UK
Leaflet: Balancing life & caring, finding ways to live your own life

Caring for yourself

As a carer, it is important that you pay attention not only to the wellbeing of the person you care for but also to your own emotional health and wellbeing as being a carer can be emotionally and physically demanding.

It is important to acknowledge these feelings and share them with those that can help. This could be with a friend or family member or another carer, carer support worker, GP or counsellor. Support groups and carers events can be beneficial for discussing your worries or fears or sharing practical advice with other carers in similar roles.

Local support groups and events for carers

These groups discuss matters which affect the everyday life of a carer and the people they care for - everything from home security and carers rights to complementary therapies.

Carer support group meetings are held across the Trust.

Northern Trust Support Groups

Taking a break from caring

Both you and the person you care for may benefit if you can take a short-term break from caring from time to time. This is sometimes known as respite care. Speak to your GP or social worker about this.

The Macmillan Unit offers respite for families and carers for patients with complex palliative care needs when no other facility is available. T: 028 9442 4394.

The Northern Ireland Hospice provides respite for those within the Northern Trust who care for an adult or child with a life-limiting illness. They provide carers with the opportunity to meet other people going through the same emotional difficulties at this time in their lives. T:  028 9078 1836

Marie Curie Cancer Care provides information and support to carers and provides complementary therapy sessions that are available to both patients and carers. T: 028 9088 2018.

Spiritual support

Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital have a special Chaplaincy Service that provides spiritual support for patients and their families and are available in the event of a death or for bereavement support. Chaplains can be contacted through any member of the hospital healthcare staff involved in the care of a palliative patient, carers and families.

Young carers

A young carer is a child or young person under the age of 18 whose life is affected by providing significant care, assistance or support to a sick or disabled relative at home. The day to day responsibilities of a young carer often include cooking, cleaning, shopping, providing emotional support, providing nursing and personal care. If you are a young carer aged under 18 it is important that you get the support you need.

Looking after someone: Leaflet which includes advice for young carers

A young person who cares for someone may be entitled to an assessment. In order to assess support requirements for the young carer a UNOCINI (Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland) assessment will be carried out with the young person.

More information

Cross Roads, Young Carers Scheme
T: 028 9181 4363

Barnarados Young Carers Scheme
T: 028 7963 1344

Death, dying and bereavement support

Patients with palliative and end of life needs may have worries about what will happen in the future when they are gone, or there may be important emotional matters they want to address when time is short. Providing supportive information before and in the time leading up to the end of life for a person and after a death for their family is extremely important.

On the death of a loved one family and friends may need information and support to deal with practical and emotional issues during their bereavement.

Talking to children about death

At some time or other, all those who care for children will be faced with questions about dying. Children deserve honest answers, but as adults, we get worried about saying the wrong thing and often do not address the issue.

Dying Matters has produced a leaflet,‘What should you tell children about death?’. This is available on the Dying Matters website at
T: 08000 21 44 66

Bereavement booklets and leaflets

The Trust can provide practical information which may be useful to you in the days ahead. This includes helpful information on living and coping with bereavement and a list of relevant support agencies.

Northern Trust death and bereavement leaflets

Bereavement counselling

When someone close to you dies, you may benefit from counselling from a specialist bereavement counsellor. The Northern Trust works with Cruse Bereavement Care to offer palliative patients and their carers’ face-to-face, group, phone, email and online counselling support.
T: 028 9079 2419

When your child has died

The Northern Trust has produced a booklet which contains information about grief and some of the feelings that parents may experience following their child’s death. There is also an annual ‘Snowdrop walk’ which gives families the opportunity to plant snowdrop bulbs in memory of their baby or child. See Bereavement Services.

Other support organisations

The Way Foundation

The Way Foundation provides a self-help social and support network for men and women widowed up to the age of 50, and their children. The main aim is to help those widowed young to rebuild their lives by helping one another. There are groups running around the country. For more information, please visit the Way Foundation website

Age NI

Age NI provides information on what happens when someone dies, how to arrange a funeral, financial help, organ donation, useful addresses and suggestions for further reading.

NI Direct

The NI Direct website has a checklist of what to consider when someone close dies. To help you, NI Direct offers a simple checklist to guide you through the process. You can also get a copy of this checklist from a registrar or a Northern Trust social worker.

Local charities

Local charities also offer bereavement counselling, please contact the Macmillan Information and Support Manager on 028 9442 4000 ext. 333079 or mobile 07795845435 to find out if there is a local charity near you who can help.

Page last updated:25 March 2015