When am I caring? (2)

How much time DO I spend caring? I decided to analyse my time over a week. I drew up some charts, mapping each day on an hourly basis and made a note of any time I considered to be actually caring. I assessed the following categories:

  • Fetching things (carrying things from room to room)
  • Ironing (Nearly everything to iron is my wife’s. My few items are simple to iron; hers can be complicated.)
  • Personal care
  • Others, not classified above

These further categories I assessed at half time. If my partner were able to share them or if I lived alone I would need to spend half the time on them:

  • Cooking
  • Setting up TV recordings. (My wife watches a surprising amount of TV and we have recorders in various parts of the house. I may be cheating myself by assessing this at half time.)
  • Arranging dishes in dishwasher and putting away after wash

Activities not counted:

  • Taking my wife to the shops (when possible)
  • Watching TV together
  • Dealing with household bills and administration
  • Posting on this forum.

The total over a week came to 17½ hours.

This is less than I was expecting. It certainly feels like I spend more time caring than this. I seem to be struggling to find time for myself, in spite of being retired.

Part of the problem I think is that the week is more fragmented. I can be called to care at almost any time, including the middle of the night. The biggest single category of care turned out to be fetching things at 3½ hours. The times spent seem short but happen several times a day.

Then there is waiting time - my caree indicates she wants assistance but in a few minutes’ time, not right away. So I am stuck in a period when I can’t get on with what I want because I know I’ll need to stop before long. I have a strategy to deal with this. When I return home, having been out, I sometimes get bombarded with requests when I have barely one foot through the door. In this situation, when I take my outdoor clothes off I dump them in my “floordrobe” (a section of the floor between my bed and the far wall) to save time for the immediate. Later, when I am caught up in waiting time, I use the time productively to move things from my floordrobe to my wardrobe. This is hardly a tidy solution and it procrastinates, but it is pragmatic.

Then there is shopping. During much of my working life I would do shopping during work lunch breaks or on the way to or from work. If I could not avoid shopping on a Saturday I would leave around 8 am to beat the crowds and queues, and be back home by 10 am with the rest of the day to do useful things. Now I am lucky if I can get away by 10 am. “Shopping” in our diary is a whole morning spoken for. We do have groceries delivered but I can’t buy everything we need by this method.

So there is a lot more to caring than actual time spent on caring rôles. Does waiting time count? Even if I use it to clear my floordrobe it is time spent not in the way I should like. If I can’t get away to the shops before 10 am, even having got up at 6:30 am, do I count all this time as caring? Actual caring activities certainly would not add up to 3½ hours but I am effectively constrained for this time.

Overall, a considerable time each week is spent on just being available to care, but this time is difficult to quantify. I sometimes have two or three days away, and a friend comes to stay so that my caree is not alone. That friend could make a case to be caring continuously all that time. Applying that argument to myself I could say that I am caring 24/7 just for being available. But if an official form asked me to state how many hours I care over a week, I don’t think “168” would wash.

How do others assess caring time? Have I overlooked anything? I should be interested in the thoughts of others on this. I am fortunate in that I have not had to battle with bureaucrats as Neil has - but the question could arrive one day.

In my opinion ‘Being available to care’ counts as does giving emotional and social support and prompts. As does waiting, I spend time waiting for S too. Caring is a lot more than just physical tasks.

I cannot leave S on his own so even when I’m not carrying out a physical task, I need to be there; and when he is self occupying he needs reassurance. If I’m out of sight for too long he comes looking for me/ calls me or gets anxious. His emotional needs are those of a young child.

When he is at his college day service or at a club / out with a family friend etc I’m the one who steps in when arrangements break down etc so I can’t be too far away and have to be readily available.

I cannot just pop out, lie in, have an early night, read uninterrupted, garden from noon to dusk, decorate, watch a film all through, have an evening out. I consider myself caring 24/7 168 hours a week.

If I wasn’t able to care S would need funding for 24 hour 1 to 1 care and probably 2 to 1 care for going ‘out in the community’ until they knew him well.


If you are responsible for another person. As their needs would not be met without help from you. Then you provide full time care.

If you were ill and a person would require a addition/stand in person/s. To complete all the tasks you perform. Then you are a full time carer.

When you are a carer and you advocate on behalf of another person. And that person could not advocate for themselves you are a full time carer.

As a carer you are never off duty.

Even on respite or a holiday - which would be nice. You are still responsible to provide alternative care but you would still be on call. That still equates to be a full time carer.

I originally posted this as a reply to Neil’s discussion with the same title, but it seems to have become split into a new thread.

Thanks Melly and SunnyDisposition for your thoughts. I am sure all readers will find your comments helpful and I can certainly identify with them.

The trouble can be that officialdom does not see it that way. Neither do some friends and relatives, judging by some other discussions on this forum, though I am fortunate in that my relatives are very understanding of my position.

Hi Denis,
I split the thread for although we are discussing what counts as caring time wise we were detracting from the original posters dilemma. Meant to PM you to let you know - but got sidetracked (by caring.)

50 hours is how many hours I worked out per week and that is just one of my sons.

It’s all consuming.

I gave this matter further thought. I decided I had not been fair to myself on recording TV programmes and allocated all the time spent on this. (If I were on my own I would try to watch programmes live as far as practicable.) I also realised I had not counted time on laundering.

After these adjustments my time on physical caring activities came to over 21 hours per week. But, as Melly said, there is also the emotional and nurturing side, which is less easy to quantify than physical activities.

Now there is the Census to submit. It includes some questions about caring, including that dreaded question, “How many hours per week do you spend caring?”

I opted for the 21 - 35 hours range. Realistically I think I am near the top of this range. That is almost the time I used to spend at work. But work of course was one chunk of time each day. Caring is fragmented from dawn to bed-time, and can even happen during the night.

I can qualify for all of SunnyDisposition’s carefully executed points and call myself a full-time carer. But others will have their own ways to answer that question on the Census form. I only hope that the Government can make some sense out of those statistics.

There has been an adjudication saying that under some circumstances, even if your caree is abroad you can still be “on call”!