Guidance for carers when a relative is admitted to hospital
The following guidance has been written by carers which we hope you find useful if you are a carer or a relative of someone who has been admitted to one of our acute care wards.
- Make sure that the staff know that you are the main carer and they have your name and phone number on record.
- Make a note of who is the Named Nurse - this person will work closely with your relative: and the doctor – the staff may call them the RMO - the Responsible Medical Officer.
- Make sure you are given a leaflet which explains basic ward information, contact numbers, visiting times and rules.
- When you are ready, in the first week, ask for an appointment with the RMO. This will give you a chance to share information and ask questions, but don’t expect the staff to tell you personal information about your relative. The staff may say that your relative has told them not to talk to you. Don’t take this too personally – it is not unusual when people are mentally distressed for them to become very suspicious and especially about those closest to them. This won’t stop you being told general things about how the ward functions,but be prepared to be persistent - explain that you are anxious and need to be reassured.
- Many wards have a nurse who has the job of helping carers. Ask if there is a Carer Lead or Carers’ Champion. This person will be able to give you extra help and information about carers meetings. Ask for a ‘Carers Pack’ which will give you lots of general information, including how to find help outside the ward.
- Carers' Support Workers work in the community though some visit the wards as well. Ask the staff for contact details. This person will meet you and introduce you to other ways of getting information and help. They work one to one and organise groups and activities for carers.
- Carers are entitled by law to a Carer’s Assessment of what they need in connection with the mental health care of a relative or friend. This can link to other benefits including finance. Ask the staff or Carers’ Support Worker to make the arrangements for you to have a Carers’ Assessment. It will involve a conversation with a worker and help you both to get a clearer picture of your caring responsibilities. It is then easier to see what help is needed.
- Don’t pass up the opportunity to share in ward meetings, though not necessarily each time.
- If the staff talk about ‘letting your relative have some leave off the ward’, do make sure that your views are heard, especially if their home is with you and they intend to eventually return.
After you leave the ward, find a way to feed back your experiences - including any questions and problems - to the staff. Check for the most appropriate time to do this so that you can involve either your relative’s Named Nurse or the Ward Carer Lead. You can also complete our online survey for carers.
If your relative is being discharged to your home, you must be involved when the Discharge/Care Plan is being drawn up. The meeting should be clear about what community services are needed to keep your relative well. It should agree what signs may point to a developing relapse and the actions to be taken, contact details and keep the phone number in a safe place.
It is important for staff and yourself to encourage your relative to agree to make an Advance Statement and sign it. This will set out a series of actions agreed to when they were well which they wish to be followed. Copies should be kept by several parts of the service and a copy kept by yourself. If your relative becomes very confused you may be the first person to realise potential problems and it will be far easier to activate the Statement and to take early action.
Taking care of yourself
It is very important that you try to keep your own life – especially when you first become involved in someone’s care.