Carers Week survey shows two in five unpaid carers are sacrificing their own health by putting off medical treatment to care for an ill, frail or disabled loved one - as charities call for action to end the care crisis.

The survey, completed by 3,400 carers (146 in the North East of England), also showed that caring had a negative impact on 75 per cent of carers’ physical health, with 35 per cent of carers sustaining a physical injury (such as back pain) through caring. A further:

  • 87 per cent said caring for a family member or friend has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • 62 per cent of carers blamed their poor health on a lack of practical support and 55 per cent on not enough financial support¹.

The eight Carers Week charity partners say this is further evidence of a growing care crisis and are calling for better financial and practical support for the 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK (294,000 in the North East), so they can look after their health and well-being.

Many carers have delayed medical treatments ranging from a hernia operation to cancer screening as a result of their caring responsibilities. Tracy Sloan has cared for her son Philip, who has severe cerebral palsy, for 20 years. Last year, she put off a regular screening appointment and then discovered she had cancer – even after treatment, she had no time for recovery.

“Looking after Philip is so full on, that it just didn’t occur to me to keep an eye on my own health. I was really shocked when I discovered I had cancer and needed an operation. I came home from hospital exhausted, emotional and fragile. I really needed the chance to rest but instead I had to deal with Philip’s demands too and that took its toll on my recovery.”

Carers Week Manager Helen Clarke says; “It’s a scandal that carers can’t get the time or support they need to look after themselves which could be jeopardising their health as a result. Carers are feeling the strain of a woefully underfunded system and still we’re seeing more cuts. Unpaid carers save the Government a fortune - £119 billion a year, yet they’re let down in return. It is time for urgent action to tackle the crisis in social care.”

Carers Week is calling for sustainable social care funding, better signposting and access to support services and for regular health checks to be offered to carers.

For more information about Carers Week and our survey, please contact Rebecca Couper at Rebecca.Couper@Carersuk.org or on 020 7378 4958.

For spokespeople, and for case studies in the North East, contact Rebecca Law on Rebecca.Law@independentage.org or 020 7605 4291.

For more information and advice if you are a carer, see our new guide, Support for Carers, available from: http://www.independentage.org/media/221837/support_for_carers.pdf

Notes for editors:

¹Carers Week surveyed 3,400 unpaid carers who look after a family member or friend online and via post during Jan-March 2012. The report In Sickness and in Health is available to download from www.carersweek.org from 18 June. Advance copies available from Monday 11 June from Rebecca.Couper@Carersuk.org or on 020 7378 4958.

Carers Week (18 to 24 June 2012) is a consortium of eight national charities comprising Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.

During Carers Week thousands of events take place all over the UK, run by a wide range of organisations. If you would like details of regional activities visit www.carersweek.org for more details.

There are an estimated 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK who look after an ill, frail or disabled family member, partner or friend. For further advice and information carers can visit http://carersweek.org/news-and-media/media-support

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