Elderly carers risking own health to care for spouse or disabled family, survey finds

Caring for their sick or disabled family is taking its toll on the health of the nation’s elderly generation of carers, according to a new survey by Carers Trust.

The UK’s largest charity for unpaid carers has found that more than half of older carers looking after their husbands, wives and other family members, have put the person they care for first at the expense of their own health. They have cancelled hospital and GP appointments and haven’t taken time out to socialise or look after their own wellbeing, resulting in a massive 87% feeling lonely and isolated.

Many carers are also sick and disabled themselves. More than a third (86%) said they have health problems of their own, with 67% attributing their health problem to caring, the survey of more than 400 carers over the age of 65 found.

Most (75%) had given up an activity they enjoyed because of their caring role while 46% said they had given up their activity because they didn’t want to leave the person they care for.

Gail Scott-Spicer, CEO of Carers Trust, said:

We have a generation of older people over the age of 65 who are carrying out one of the toughest roles there is - caring 24/7 for their husbands, wives and adult children.

Some are sick or disabled themselves. There simply isn’t enough support for them so the least we can do is help them to look after their own health. If they become seriously ill too, the person they care for will go downhill which means a bleak future all round.

The results showed:

  • 56% (234) care around the clock; while just under a fifth (76 carers) cared for more than 50 hours a week;
  • 86% (360) had health problems of their own
  • 67% (239) said their sickness was as a direct result of their caring role
  • 57% (237) had cancelled or postponed their own doctor’s or hospital appointments because of their caring role
  • More than half of those who responded said they postponed their appointments because they were worried about the person they care for.
  • 81% (328) said they feel lonely and isolated and 83% (271) said their loneliness and isolation was having a negative impact on their health.

Now Carers Trust is calling for:

  • More support to allow carers to look after their own health while caring for their sick and disabled relative. This will help them to stay well while caring and get the necessary medical attention they need themselves and thereby preventing a crisis in the future
  • More flexible medical appointments which fit in with the available replacement care
  • Local authorities to work with the local CCG’s and Health and Wellbeing Boards to use their authority to help identify carers earlier and prevent poor health in the future
  • GPs to target carers and proactively invite them for a health check.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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