The Scottish Government have published the first annual report on Scotland's National Dementia Strategy, and also produced Standards of Care:
A new report reveals devastating impact that caring can have on the health of older carers
Deteriorating health, having to cancel operations and worrying about what will happen to your loved one when you’re gone is the reality for older carers in Scotland, according to new research from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.
More than one in eight people aged over 60 is a carer and more than three-quarters (76.3%) of the older carers in our survey said caring had a negative impact on their physical health. One third (36.6%) reported cancelling a treatment or operation for themselves because of their caring responsibilities. Half (51.9%) said that their health had got worse in the last year.
The report, Always on Call, Always Concerned, surveyed 639 older carers aged 60-94 (80 in Scotland), who look after a sick or disabled family member and found that 67.5% of older carers have long term health problems or a disability themselves and only half feel safe or confident in lifting the person they care for.
Dame Judi Dench, Angela Rippon, Joanna Lumley and Alistair Campbell are among the well-known names supporting The Trust’s push to highlight the negative impact of caring on older carers’ health.
Dame Judi Dench says:
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.
The pressures of caring also impact on older carers in other ways with seven out of ten (68.4%) saying that being a carer has an adverse effect on their mental health. Almost four in ten (39.2%) overall said that their mental health had deteriorated in the last year.
Alice O’Hara is 63 and she cares for her mother, Mary, 89, who has dementia.
I care for my mum for more than 60 hours a week. I also cared for my husband Gerry until he died, as he had Parkinson’s disease so I’ve been caring for more than 20 years.
I’ve got arthritis myself and my health has got worse over the last year. Caring makes me feel worn out and stressed and it stops me doing what I want to do.
To address these issues, The Trust is calling on local authorities and local health providers to give greater recognition to the benefit of supporting older carers.
- GPs should offer a physical health check to older carers once a year.
- GPs should provide screening for depression at least once a year.
- GPs should offer home visits to carers if necessary to fit around their caring role.
- Hospital appointments should be flexible to meet the needs of carers.
- Carers who need to carry out lifting as part of their caring role should be funded by their health service or local authority to have training and equipment to do this safely.
- Health services should work with the local authority to fund breaks for carers since having a break helps maintain physical and mental health.
- Effective methods of promoting mental wellbeing in older carers should be developed by health and social care agencies to reduce the risk of stress and depression.
Florence Burke, Director for Scotland for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, says: “The survey clearly shows how carers’ health can be badly affected when looking after others. At a time when their own health may be worsening, many people find themselves worn out and anxious because of a caring role.
We are recommending low-cost preventative services at local level which can improve the lives of carers, which will ultimately save public money. It is critical that investment in Scotland, such as the Change Fund, benefits these carers directly. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure that the commitment to 20% of the Fund, specifically for carer support, gets to older carers and has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.