The rise in elderly carers
Caring full time for someone who you love is a difficult and draining task, both mentally and physically. It is not uncommon to find families who care for elderly parents, by moving them in or visiting regularly, and this has a great impact while trying to juggle care responsibilities with work and their own partner and/or children.
However, there is a hidden army of people who care for another person, a group of people who themselves may need some form of care. These are the older carers, those over the age of 80.
A new report by Age UK suggests that 1 in 7 people over the age of 80 care for a family member or friend in some capacity, with the number of carers in this bracket rising from 301,000 to 417,000 in the last seven years. The majority of these people are caring for a partner, and over half care for someone in their own home for more than 35 hours a week.
These carers are essential and they are thought to be saving the State £5.9 billion a year by providing this unpaid care. With a lack of funding in the area of health and social care, and the number of people able to receive financial help from their local authority declining, these carers are helping people outside the system to stay at home for longer.
But there are consequences to this. These elderly carers may have care needs of their own that are going unmet due to their responsibilities towards the person that they care for, or they may risk illness or injury through their care duties. They are often worried about what would happen to the cared-for person should they fall ill themselves, and are often exhausted.
Are there are alternatives though? Long-term, there is a need for further investment in the area of home care as the ageing population continues to rise, creating even more carers over the age of 80.
The key step that should be made is to make sure that the local authority is aware of the situation. Both the carer and the cared-for person should be formally assessed to ensure that their care needs are recorded, and that a care plan is in place that works for both parties. This will ensure that any funding available is given – it might be that there is enough financial aid given to pay for a paid carer to provide some help, even if only a few hours a week.
Local authorities have a responsibility to make sure that a person with care needs is having their needs met, even if they can’t offer funding, and they should regularly re-assess the situation to see if needs progress. They also have a responsibility to watch out for the carer themselves, to make sure that they are able to cope with the caring responsibilities. The carer may be eligible for some allowances themselves, which could help with some respite care, for example.