Wake-up call for nation over reality of family caring

Research reveals crisis of carers struggling without support and huge gaps in national understanding of growing social issue

ACROSS the UK an invisible army are caring for increasing numbers of older, ill or disabled loved ones

But research published today to mark Carers Week 2014 reveals worrying public ignorance of the rising call on families to provide unpaid care.1

The reality is that 6.5 million people2 – that’s 1 in 8 adults – are already caring for a family member or close friend who is frail or facing long-term illness or disability.

Today’s Carers Week/You Gov poll shows that adults of all ages drastically underestimate the issue, withonly a tiny fraction (9%) of the nation correctly stating the true scale of unpaid, family care.3

And while numbers are predicted to rise to 9 million by 2037,4 most adults don’t think caring will happen to them. Less than a third of adults who are currently not carers (29%) believe it likely they will become carers in the future, the survey found.5

Speaking on behalf of the nine charities behind Carers Week 2014, Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

“The reality is that all of us, at some point in our lives, will either be carers or need the help of carers. This survey is a wake-up call, clearly and alarmingly showing that as a society we need a much wider understanding of the realities of caring.”

The survey also asked what would be of greatest concern if a loved one did come to need care.

The nation’s top 3 caring worries are revealed as:

  1. Money worries – being unable to cope financially
  2. Emotional strain – finding it too stressful/upsetting
  3. I wouldn’t know how – not having the experience or skills to be a carer

The views of current carers gathered through the same poll, reveal carers across the country are struggling behind closed doors without adequate help. Worryingly, over half (53%) of carers polled said they were not receiving enough support.6 Their experiences included:

“My brother cares full time for both my parents. My father’s 91 and unable to walk without assistance. My mother’s 86, has severe dementia and needs help 24/7. I help at weekends and one evening a week. My brother’s spoken to the doctor about care for my mother and was told the dementia nurse has a full case load. He’s contacted a charity who have agreed to help for two hours per week.”

“My daughter has spina bifida and is a full time wheelchair user… At 60, it can be hard for me to push a manual wheelchair plus carry shopping up a hill…”

“I have been looking after my disabled wife for 13 years… I work part time and my physical health is not great and sometimes I feel like I am cracking up.”

Heléna Herklots added:

“We need to understand what carers are doing day in and day out, the impact caring can have – and the difference we as individuals and organisations can make. That is why during Carers Week we are calling on the public and professionals across the UK to reach out to carers in their local communities.”