“Caring is incredibly isolating. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to try to hold on to your own friends, your own life.”
A new report published yesterday to mark Carers Week 2013 provides fresh insight into the lives of 6.5 million carers in the United Kingdom, and the impact that caring for someone has on their lives and relationships.
The report, Prepared to Care?, documents the findings of a survey of over 2,100 carers and asks a range of questions, including on health, finances and social lives. For those working to tackle loneliness and isolation, the results reforce our understanding of the risk of isolation carers face, and the need to offer greater social support. As the report explains:
“Carers can become extremely isolated especially if they are giving unsupported round the clock care. This makes it difficult for carers to get out of the house to meet up with either friends or family. As financial and physical pressures of caring increase mental health and wellbeing is a growing concern.”
The following statistics and quotes are taken from Prepared to Care?:
6 out of 10 (61%) have found it difficult to maintain friendships
“In some ways it has brought my partner and I closer together (though at times it has done nothing to improve our tempers!). However, our relationships with many friends and family have suffered due to it.”
42% have had a breakdown in a relationship with a family member
“Caring has put a lot of stress on my relationships with people as I find sometimes I don’t have the time to see my friends. I have to cancel plans a lot as things crop up.”
‘Because of the amount of time I spend caring, my partner is becoming very bitter and resentful.’
Seven out of ten (71%) carers were not prepared for the change in relationship with the person they care for
‘My husband’s illness had made him completely dependent on me and he sees me as his carer and not his wife anymore which for me is very sad.’
‘I have given up work to care for my husband. More time together has brought us closer, but has also caused tension. His dementia, diagnosed after I gave up work, is a real challenge to our relationship and a source of much more sadness than the Parkinson’s diagnosis.’
Eight out of ten (78 per cent) carers were not prepared for changes to their lifestyle because of a caring role
‘My experience came as a complete shock with a cancer diagnosis so there was no time to prepare.
There was an overwhelming sense of shock and loneliness.’
The survey also discovered that eight out of ten of carers were not aware of the support available because of the time it took them to identify themselves as carers. Although it is vital for individuals to understand that they are a carer, statutory organisations also have a responsibility to ensure carers do not miss out on support, advice and information.
Health and wellbeing boards, new local forums for senior health and care officials, are now responsible for creating a strategic plan to improve physical, mental and emotional health of their local population.
These boards need to understand that carers are a group at particular risk of loneliness and isolation, and the subsequent negative impact this has on our health. If you would like to learn more about raising awareness of the issue of loneliness in your community, visit our Loneliness Harms Health webpage:
The full report, and further information and advice, can be found on the Carers Week website here: