This week we have a guest post from Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, that highlights the key findings of a new report on caring in later life.
While caring is something that touches all of us at some point in our lives, new research published today by Carers UK and Age UK reveals that it is the older generation who are increasingly stepping up to provide care for loved ones. The figures in our new report ‘Caring into later life’ are stark – showing a 35% rise in those caring aged 65+ in England, while the number of carers aged 85 and older in England has more than doubled in the last ten years.
We know that caring for a loved one at any age presents a myriad of challenges; however our research shows that caring in later life can have a big impact on carers’ health, wellbeing, and ability to have lives of their own outside their caring role. Older carers are more likely to have health problems of their own that can be exacerbated by the strain of caring. Indeed, our research shows the more hours a person cares, the bigger effect it has on their own health, not only physically but also mentally- with older carers more likely to report feeling anxious or depressed, especially if they are providing a lot of care.
Our report also looks at the support available for older carers. Aside from giving their time to care for loved ones, the nation’s 1.5 million older carers in the UK make a remarkable contribution to wider society, saving the state over £15 billion each year by providing care that would otherwise have to be paid for by local authorities. Yet, we have found that fewer older carers are being offered the support they need to continue caring – we found a 9% drop in the number of carers aged 75 and over being offered support since 2006/7, meaning many face a daily struggle to cope physically, emotionally and financially.
In light of this worrying gap in provision, Carers UK and Age UK are calling for immediate action to provide better support to older carers. We have made a number of recommendations on what needs to be done – by the NHS, national government and local authorities- however our most important call is for a sustainable settlement for health and social care services to ensure the system has the financial resources to give older carers the practical support they urgently need. We know that the number of older carers is only going to grow further as our population ages and we live longer with disabilities and long term conditions, so the imperative to take urgent action is strong and must be heard.