Two thirds of older carers have 'damaged their health' looking after loved ones

Older carers are battling their own deteriorating health without enough support from the NHS, experts have found.

A study by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers found that nearly 70% of over-60s looking after loved ones said being a carer had damaged their health. One in three said they had cancelled a medical treatment or operation because of their duties, and nearly half said their health had got worse in the past year.

Only half of carers aged over 60 said they felt confident lifting the person they cared for.
In total 639 carers aged 60 to 94 were surveyed, two-thirds of whom said they had health problems or a disability themselves and only of whom half felt confident lifting the person they care for.

There was also a toll on mental health, with 68.8 per cent of those polled saying being a carer had damaged their psychological well being, and 42.9 per cent reporting that their mental health had deteriorated in the past year.

The Trust wants GPs to give health checks and depression screening to carers once a year, and home visits should they need them because of their responsibilities.

It recommends that carers should be provided with training and equipment for lifting if required and that their breaks should be funded by the health service and local council.

It is supported by actress Dame Judi Dench who said: "Having been a carer myself, I understand the stresses and strains involved in looking after a loved one.

"There are many, many older carers around the country doing tremendous work looking after their family or friends but it's often at a cost to the carer's own health and well-being, as shown by this report from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. Carers already save our economy billions and they need more support to enable them to continue in their caring role."

Judi Dench, who has been a carer herself, supports a charity's call for greater health support for carers.

Liz Fenton, chief executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers said: "The survey clearly shows how carers can harm their own health when looking after others.

"Many carers told us about being in severe pain, with crumbling spines, arthritis, back problems, cancer, kidney problems, depression and heart problems but struggling on in their caring role.

"The Princess Royal Trust for Carers is calling for easily accessible, comparatively low cost preventative services at local level which can improve the lives of carers. This will enable people to choose to be cared for longer at home and ultimately save public money."

The Department of Health said work was under way to address the concerns locally, but admitted more needed to be done to meet the needs of older carers.

A DH spokesman said: "The Government wants to give people more control over their health and social care, and we are clear that an increase in the uptake of personal budgets for frail older people and their carers is critical and will enable them to make decisions about how their care and support needs are best met.

"The department has invested in a number of local sites exploring different ways of providing breaks for carers, health and well-being checks for carers, and ways in which the NHS can better support carers with more flexible appointment times, better hospital discharge arrangements and better care planning - and an evaluation will be published later this year.'

Source: Daily Mail

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Last Updated : 12 September 2011. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.