Better help and support for older carers

Older carers should be able to get help and support thanks to a new toolkit from the UK’s largest charity for carers.

Carers Trust has devised a checklist which will help to spot older carers and direct them to vital help and support.

There are more than 1.8 million unpaid carers over the age of 60 in England, with carers between the ages of 60 and 64 making up 20% of the population. A quarter of older carers are caring for an adult son or daughter, while some are sandwich carers – looking after both their partner and their adult son or daughter.

The number of older carers rose by 35% during the 2001 and 2011 Census and is set to continue rising.

The demands on carers has meant that their own health and wellbeing suffers, resulting in poor physical and mental health, financial pressures and a breakdown in their ability to care.

Increased liklihood

But by helping to spot the signs early and providing better help and support for older carers, the likelihood of them keeping the person they care for at home and to be able to live more healthily and independently increases, as outlined in the Carers Trust toolkit “Caring for Older Carers”.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research for Carers Trust, said:

“The pressure of caring can be overwhelming and exhausting and if you are older, and caring for your spouse or adult son or daughter, the situation can reach almost breaking point, resulting in a rapid decline in the older carers’ health.

“Carers Trust’s toolkit highlights some tried and tested ways of how to support carers. They have told us what has helped them and by passing on these tips it will help other carers and the professionals providing support, to understand and care for them better.”

Bob (75), who cares for his wife Pauline, 68, said:

“Sometimes you literally have to put your hand up and say that you are a carer in order to get the support that you need. I didn’t see myself as a carer for a long time. It wasn’t until nurses at the hospital, at which Pauline was a patient, noticed how exhausted I was and suggested we needed help from social services. I then realised that I was a carer and had to accept my responsibility to obtain help for both of us to manage her progressive condition.

“Now that I know what a carer is, I make a point of informing carers of the need to pursue their needs for extra care and support by signposting and encouraging them to get this support based on my experience. Perseverance is the key.”

The toolkit has a number of tips to help professionals such as nurses, doctors, social workers and others working in the community to spot carers and help them access information, advice and support.

It outlines some of the issues surrounding older carers and provides a checklist for professionals to consider:

The toolkit also highlights what good care support looks like by giving examples of the support that has been provided to carers.

For instance, by setting up groups to help older carers overcome the isolation of caring caused by the demands of their role and the gradual loss of friendships; by offering counselling services to support carers’ mental and emotional wellbeing and helping them to come to terms with fears for the future; groups for end-of-life care and also post bereavement.

Other services include a befriending service to sit with the person being cared for in order to give the carer some time to themselves; places for carers to meet for a meal or a social activity close to home so they can get home quickly if they need to, and ultimately making it more likely that they will attend.