THE EMOTIONAL and physical toll of caring in later life has been laid bare in a new report which reveals how feelings of guilt, fear and worry overshadow the lives of older carers.
Research by the charity Independent Age, published today as part of Carers Week, showed guilt about not being good enough and worry and fear about what will happen to their loved one when they die are among the top concerns of older carers.
More than 119,000 people aged over 65 provide unpaid care in Yorkshire, with 49,540 providing 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week, Independent Age said.
It is calling for greater support for older carers, who it says saves the NHS and care system billions of pounds every year.
One of the greatest causes of stress for older carers is the anxiety that the needs of the person they are caring for are not being met, researchers found.
Many of the impacts of caring are exacerbated by age, such as reduced income, the onset of long term medical conditions and fewer social networks.
The report also highlighted how caring doesn’t end when a loved one moves into a care home, and examined what happens after the death of the person they care for - with some former carers reporting a “health crash” after bereavement and struggling to cope with a new way of life.
Following the research, the charity has called on GPs to help improve carers’ access to support and said the lack of care and support to carers’ loved ones should also be addressed.
It suggests developing a “carers’ friend” service which could help provide practical and emotional support to carers and improving support for bereaved carers.
Independent Age chief executive Janet Morrison said the research highlights the concerns of people “whose voices are rarely heard.”
She said: “Older carers have told us about the physical, emotional, social and financial strain caring has on them. As our population ages, it’s clear more must be done to support older carers at an early stage, not just because it is the right thing to do but because without them our health and social care system could start to fall apart.”
Chief executive of Carers UK, Heléna Herlots said: “Caring at any age can be challenging but from this research we see that older carers, who are more likely to have health problems of their own and smaller support networks, are particularly vulnerable to feeling isolated and fearful about the future.
“With the number of older carers continuing to rise and expected to reach over 1.8 million in England by 2030, it is clear more needs to be done to ensure older carers are identified and fully supported through, what can be, a very difficult time in their lives.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that since 2011, it had given £750,000 to the Royal College of General Practitioners to help them provide healthcare professionals with information and advice on how best to identify and support carers.
‘Lonely and isolating’ experience
CARING in later life can be a lonely and isolating experience, the report found.
Independent Age spoke to carers aged from 51 to 90 and found that carers face a range of issues including loneliness and isolation.
Researchers found older carers often found it difficult to keep up with family and friends, caused by limitations on free time, and a diminishing sense of shared experience with family and friends, exacerbated by declining social networks.
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness, which takes a toll on 91,300 older people in the region, since February 2014.