Author: Adam Heppell
Date: Tuesday 8th June 2021
As an annual campaign, Carers Week is a great opportunity to say a big thank you to all those whose vital work as carers provide vital support to those in need. Even if it’s just listening to somebody. In elderly cases, this might be the only regular interaction with another person all day.
A carer helps with daily living, each case is different. A carer may be needed for help with shopping, others may need assistance with travel, emotional support, or perhaps 24/7 supervision. An individual might need a carer for a plethora of reasons including disability, injury, mental health, or a degenerative condition.
The pandemic has meant many more people have stepped up to support others. New figures released for Carers Week show an estimated 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million. 2.7 million women (59%) and 1.8 million men (41%) have started caring for relatives.
This year’s theme is ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued'. In many instances, a relative or friend assumes the role of carer. People often feel compelled to help and find it difficult to do nothing. This could mean that new carers don’t know how to seek help or perhaps they don’t want to admit they are struggling. One might also begin caring for a friend and underestimate the scale of the task.
By extension, the support network of a carer is often unaware of the true extent of what might be involved to care for somebody, meaning that carers could miss out on the support they need themselves.
Emotional Impact and Support
While caring for someone can be rewarding, it might also be draining at times and might even lead to carers being isolated themselves. The demands of caring for someone might also mean it can be difficult to juggle a job alongside, which could mean they may struggle financially. It’s important that carers are given time and opportunities to take a break where they need. Support groups and resources where carers can share their experiences can often help both themselves and also new carers unsure of what to expect. Respite is also a good stop-gap option for all parties.
Caring might also impact one’s leisure time that could be used to take a break. Research released for Carers Week has found that some needing carers lost, on average, 25 hours of support a month prior to the pandemic.
72% of carers have not had any breaks from their caring role. Of those who got a break, a third (33%) used the time to complete practical tasks or housework, and a quarter (26%) to attend their own medical appointments.
Three quarters (74%) reported being exhausted as a result of caring during the pandemic, and more than a third (35%) said they feel unable to manage their unpaid caring role.
The cost of caring for somebody can be overwhelming. Benefits such as Carers Allowance and Personal Independence Payment and others are designed to assist with the cost but it can still prove difficult. Higher utility bills, transport costs and the cost of care services can all strain household finances.
There are an estimated 800,000 young carers in the UK. It can be particularly difficult for them as the extra responsibilities often mean they can miss out on vital development and opportunities such as sport and clubs that most children can take for granted. The pressure can often mean they have reduced time with their friends. Normal pressures associated with young adulthood such as exams can pale into insignificance which can have an impact on their future. Indeed research carried out by the Children Society indicates that 1/3 of young carers are affected by mental health concerns. Furthermore, 27% of young carers surveyed aged 11-15 miss or have difficulties at school due to their caring responsibilities.
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