Carers’ health buckling under the strain

Carers Week survey shows two in five unpaid carers are sacrificing their own health by putting off medical treatment to care for an ill, frail or disabled loved one – as charities call for action to end the care crisis.

The survey, completed by 3,400 carers, also showed that caring had a negative impact on 83 per cent of carers’ physical health, with 36 per cent of carers sustaining a physical injury (such as back pain)  through caring. A further:

  • 87 per cent said caring for a family member or friend has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • 64 per cent carers blamed their poor health on a lack of practical support and 50 per cent on not enough financial support.

The eight Carers Week charity partners say this is further evidence of a growing care crisis and are calling for better financial and practical support for the 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK, so they can look after their health and well-being.

Many carers have delayed medical treatments ranging from a hernia operation to cancer screening as a result of their caring responsibilities. Tracy Sloan has cared for her son Phillip, who has severe cerebral palsy, for 20 years. Last year, she put off a regular screening appointment and then discovered she had cancer – even after treatment, she had no time for recovery.

“Looking after Phillip is so full on, that it just didn’t occur to me to keep an eye on my own health. I was really shocked when I discovered I had cancer and needed an operation. I came home from hospital exhausted, emotional and fragile. I really needed the chance to rest but instead I had to deal with Phillip’s demands too and that took its toll on my recovery.”

Carers Week Manager Helen Clarke says; “It’s a scandal that carers can’t get the time or support they need to look after themselves which could be jeopardising their health as a result. Carers are feeling the strain of a woefully underfunded system and still we’re seeing more cuts. Unpaid carers save the Government a fortune – £119 billion a year, yet they’re let down in return. It is time for urgent action to tackle the crisis in social care.”

Carers Week is calling for sustainable social care funding, better signposting and access to support services and for regular health checks to be offered to carers.

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