Devastating impact on health of older carers

A report launched today by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers reveals that 70% of older carers suffer a devastating impact on their health due to their caring role.

The report “Always on Call, Always Concerned” highlights the concerns of older carers while demonstrating how essential it is to support local centres that look after older carers’ needs.

Based on a survey of 639 carers aged 60-94, the report found that 65% of older carers have long term health problems or a disability themselves and seven out of ten (68.8%) say that being a carer has an adverse effect on their mental health.

Of the UK‟s approximately six million carers, around half are aged over 50 and 1.5 million of these are carers over the age of 60 alone.

The pressures of caring also particularly affect older carers in other ways; a major concern for eight out of ten is what will happen to the person they care for in the future. And only half feel safe or confident in lifting the person they care for.

71-year old Geraldine, who cares for her husband Barrie, says: “I suffer from osteoporosis, scleroderma and Raynaud’s disease. To treat the scleroderma I have to have special treatment every so often or I’ll die basically. Once I put it off and contracted gangrene in my finger. To receive the treatment I have to go to hospital for five days at a time and so try to arrange the treatments for during school holidays so my son, who is a teacher, can take care of his Dad.”

The Trust points out that greater focus on helping older carers maintain their health is crucial. Local authorities and local health providers need to give greater recognition to the benefit of supporting older carers. Centres support carers of all ages, but a high percentage of users of the service are older people. This means that most carers’ centre services are designed to meet the needs of older carers including availability of home visits, emergency planning and group activities that meet the needs of older carers.

Liz Fenton, Chief Executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers says: “The survey clearly shows how carers can harm their own health when looking after others. Many carers told us about being in severe pain, with crumbling spines, arthritis, back problems, cancer, kidney problems, depression and heart problems but struggling on in their caring role.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers is calling for easily accessible, comparatively low cost preventative services at local level which can improve the lives of carers. This will enable people to choose to be cared for longer at home and ultimately save public money.’