23 May 2013

From an article in the Daily Telegraph of 17 May, 2013:

Carers putting health at risk meeting needs of ageing population, census reveals

An army of unpaid carers - many of them children or elderly people - are sacrificing their own health by looking after sick and frail loved-ones, an official study shows.

New analysis of the 2011 census from the Office for National Statistics shows a link between juggling a full-time job while caring for relations and having deteriorating health.

It found that those who provide 50 hours or more care a week while trying to hold down a full-time job are three times more likely themselves to be struggling with ill health than their working counterparts who are not carers.

The ONS said there appeared to be a 'uniform pattern of deteriorating health' the more unpaid care people provide.  'A clear pattern of worsening general health with increasing extent of unpaid care provision was present across economic positions in both England and is Wales,' the paper said.

'Those providing no unpaid care experienced the lowest percentage of 'not good' health in all economic positions other than the retired.' It also revealed that almost 10,000 children aged five to seven in England and Wales provide care for their family members or guardians, almost double the figure in the 2001 census.

At the same time the number of elderly people devoting their retirement to ill partners or their own ageing parents has surged by 35% in a decade.

Overall, 5.8 million people in England and Wales - 10% of the population - are providing unpaid care to sick, disabled or elderly loved ones, including 3.3 million women; almost 178,000 of these carers are children; while almost 1.3 million of them are themselves elderly and potentially in need of care themselves.

The burden of caring continues to fall more heavily on women and girls then their male relations.  A quarter of women in their late 50s are unpaid carers.

While the level of caring commitments vary, there are 2l3,000 people in England and Wales juggling full-time jobs with providing 50 hours of unpaid care a week.

Carers often don't know where to turn for the help they need
According to a representative of the charity Carers UK 'Our ageing population has created a new generation of older people who are devoting their retirement to caring for their parents, relatives and partners - a challenge previous generations have not face.  Our care services are already struggling to support the millions who care for loved ones.  Government must act, not just to preserve the dignity and independence of older people who need support, but also prevent their partners and children from being pushed to breaking point caring for them.'

A spokesman for The Children's Society said the number of children providing unpaid care was likely to the the tip of the iceberg.  Many often incredibly vulnerable young carers are slipping through the net, undetected by the support services they so desperately need.  Caring can cost children dearly.  They are missing out on their childhoods and school, gaining fewer qualifications and job opportunities and therefore are less likely to earn a decent living in the future.

 An issue, not mentioned in this article, is the many carers who give up their jobs to care for someone.  They then miss out on earning money and the future that a career and possibly pension provide.  Although carers often receive money from the state, unfortunately it doesn't recompense for their time and expertise.

Another lack is the loss of social contact with their peers.  This occurs not only through a job but through social activities which the carer no longer has the change to participate in.

Incidentally, the Paignton Carers Centre has recently opened.  It's upstairs in the the library, room 17 (next to room 2, of course!).  The opening hours are 10 - 4 Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 - 1 on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Contact telephone number is 01803 208455.  Carer in this context means anyone who looks after or keeps an eye on a friend, neighbour or family member who could not manage without that help.

Healthwatch is also based there (formerly PALS - Patient Advice and Liaison Service), tel: 0800 052 0029.  See: http://www.healthwatchtorbay.org.uk/.

Healthwatch Torbay

Healthwatch Torbay is our independent consumer watchdog influencing,improving and monitoring health and social care services in Torbay. It provides local people, including community and voluntary groups, with a voice to influence the planning, purchasing and provision of these services, supporting the public by promoting better results in health for all and social care for adults.

Healthwatch Torbay aims to:
  • Strengthen the patient and public voice at both national and local level
  • Campaign, promote and present the collective views and experiences of patients, carers and the local population 
  • Influence policy, planning, and delivery of health and social care services in Torbay
  • Signpost and support the public in accessing suitable services
  • Represent the diverse communities across Torbay to ensure they have their say on health and social care issues
  • Work closely with Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission in holding commissioners and providers to account 
  • Continue positive working relationships with a wide range of organisations and groups across Torbay
  • Continue to develop credibility and public trust by responding appropriately to concerns 
  • Continue raising awareness of local Healthwatch via effective communication
  • Develop a well-established brand in Torbay

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