The results of a new nationwide survey of 3,360 carers, carried out for Carers Week, reveal two out of five carers have put off medical treatment because of their caring role, making the problem worse for half of those carers.
The survey, launched today (18 June) as part of Carers Week 2012 highlights the effects that caring can have, both long- and short-term, on the emotional and physical wellbeing of carers. The research further revealed that caring had a negative impact on 83% of carers’ physical health, with 36% of carers sustaining a physical injury (such as back pain) through caring.
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.”
The 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. They want sustainable social care funding, better signposting and access to support services and for regular health checks to be offered to carers.
Anne Roberts, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said: “This survey highlights once again the pressure that carers are under and reinforces the fact that they don't consider their own health needs - a huge issue for them and also for the care and support they provide. The evidence is clear - there is an absolute priority for Social Care and Health to work together to ensure that accessible and appropriate replacement services are in place so that carers can attend appointments, and follow up treatment. GPs play a pivotal role in identifying and supporting carers and at Carers Trust we are committed to working with them and all other relevant parties so that together we can ensure that carers get the information and assistance they need when they need it. "