This blog was contributed by Hannah Pearce, Age UK’s joint Head of Public Affairs.
Listening to one of my favourite radio programmes, R4’s Soul Music recently, I was very moved to hear one of the participants Ray taking about his life with his wife Sylvia and the importance of music to their lives. They had married in 1953 and celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary in 2013 shortly before her death last year. Ray explained that Sylvia had had dementia in her final years and that life had been difficult but that he had promised when they married that ‘for as long as I could breathe I would look after her.’ It was a small glimpse into the private lives of others and a reminder of the 1000s of people in their 80’s dedicating their lives to caring for loved ones across the country.
In April this year Age UK and Carers UK published ‘Caring into later life’ which showed 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. The report explains 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. Yet our report also found a 9% drop in the number of carers aged 75 and over being offered support since 2006/7, meaning many people face a daily struggle to cope physically, emotionally and financially.
As a result Age UK is delighted to have supported Carers Week and I was very pleased that the parliamentary reception that was held last week was literally over run with MPs interested to find out more about carers and our ideas for creating communities that do more to support carers. Over 100 MPs attended the event and were keen to talk to Age UK staff and carers Joan and Maxine, who were able to talk to MPs directly about the support that they themselves think is needed to support carers.
We’ve made a number of recommendations on what needs to be done by the NHS, national government, local authorities and employers to build Carer Friendly communities 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.