New research from Carers Week of over 2,100 carers has revealed that carers are being woefully let down by a lack of support when they first take on a caring role. The findings from the report, Prepared to Care? show that support is not being made available to new carers with often devastating consequences.
Released to coincide with the launch of Carers Week 2013, the findings show that 75% of carers were unprepared for all aspects of caring. A further 81% of carers say they were not aware of the support available1 and 35% believe they were given the wrong advice about the support on offer2.
With around 6.5 million carers in the UK3 and 6,000 people taking on a new caring role every day4, the charities within the Carers Week partnership are calling for the government, GPs and health and social care professionals to ensure that more support is given to carers from day one of their caring role.
The research goes on to outline the huge emotional, physical and financial effects that caring can have as people are not prepared for the impact of their caring role.
Impact of caring
The survey shows that carers often struggle to balance work and their caring responsibilities, with 45% of carers saying they had to give up work.
The results also highlight how carers’ physical, emotional and mental wellbeing can suffer. 61% of carers have experienced depression and nearly all carers surveyed (92%) say they feel more stressed because of their caring role.
The survey also emphasised the strain that caring can put on people’s relationships. 52% of respondents have experienced difficulties in their relationship with their partner and 61% have found it difficult to maintain friendships.
Helen Clarke, Carers Week Manager, commented: “The impact of caring for a loved one or friend is an issue that we simply cannot ignore. Every day across the country, 6,000 people take on new caring responsibilities and too often they face the challenges of caring without support. Becoming a carer can happen overnight and without information and guidance, carers can be left feeling isolated and alone.
“The figures clearly show that carers aren’t being offered support and if they are, it can often be wrong or not the full information. The consequences for carers are huge, so it’s vital that GPs, health and social care professionals and the government all play a role to ensure that carers are offered the support they deserve from day one.”
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK- one of the Carers Week charity partners – said: “There are 6.5 million carers in the UK saving society over £119 billion a year with the unpaid care they provide. Given this massive contribution, when they start to care, families must get support, advice and information early, to enable them to juggle care and work, stay healthy and to live their own lives alongside caring. Without the right support, the impact on carers’ health and finances can be devastating and can bring wider costs to society and the economy, if they are pushed to breaking point.”
Shane Wood, aged 45, who cares full time for his partner, Pete, aged 50, who has Parkinson’s, explained how he felt when he first started caring: “When Pete was diagnosed, we weren’t referred to relevant services by our GP and combined with my increasing caring duties this lack of support ended up putting a huge strain on our relationship. The only time I felt we got the support we needed was a few years in when things reached breaking point. By then I got to the point where I had I lost myself in the caring role. I didn’t recognise who I was anymore – I was tired and short tempered all the time, and my friends told me I needed to get help because I simply couldn’t cope.”
Carers flagged as part of the survey that they would have benefitted from better support and information from day one. As part of the report, Prepared to Care? carers stated what would have made a difference to their experience, they included:
Carers Week is delivered by a partnership of national charities – Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK and supported by theStroke Association and Bupa’s Carewell. In 2013 it is sponsored by Sainsbury’s Plc and the sector skills council in England, Skills for Care.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45