Older carers say they are now doing the hardest job they have ever done, with no option to ring in sick if they are not well.

Just when older carers thought it was time to put up their feet and retire, many of the older generation are finding that there is no such thing as retirement.

Instead of retiring, they have become or will remain lifelong unpaid carers for their sick or disabled partner or adult children.

We've launched "Retirement on Hold", a new report which highlights some of the challenges the older population are facing.

The report gives a snapshot of the battles some older people are now fighting, including caring for someone else when they have their own age-related illnesses.

Download the Retirement on Hold report (PDF, 406KB)

No such thing as retirement for unpaid carers

Many carers aren't prepared for caring and are struggling to find their way around the social care system, and some say by the time they've received vital information it is too late. They say the burden of caring has resulted in them being exhausted, frustrated and becoming sick themselves.

Speaking as Carers Trust launches the third phase of its Speak up for older carers campaign, Gail Scott-Spicer, CEO of Carers Trust, said:

"With more than 1.8 million unpaid carers over the age of 60 in England, and with a longer life expectancy, the older generation can expect to care for longer and later into their lives.

"Without more financial support for social care and help on a practical level, they can look forward to working harder without the perks of the job, such as annual leave and occupational health assessments."

Older carers battling their own health problems

Our new report highlights some of the issues many older carers are facing:

  • Over half of older carers attending focus groups set up by Carers Trust had at least one health condition themselves, such as high blood pressure, arthritis and heart problems.
  • Some carers carried on caring even though they no longer had feelings for the person they cared for. While some felt they were made to feel guilty if they were no longer willing or able to care and were judged harshly by relatives and some professionals.
  • Some carers were using their own money to finance personal care services or respite breaks without realising the person they care for should be assessed for the cost.

How support can be a lifeline for carers

Bill, 75, cares for his wife, 76. He said:

"Back home in the Caribbean people were either well and working, or they died. There was sometimes an old aunt or grandmother, but she was at home looking after the children, people just didn't live that long.

"When we came to England as young men and women there were no older people in our community so again we had no experience of caring. I would say caring for elderly people is a new thing to our community. The support from the carers group has been a lifeline for me."

PR guru and businesswoman Lynne Franks, cares for her elderly mum who has Alzheimer's. She said:

Caring has to be one of the toughest jobs there is – both emotionally and physically. Being responsible for the care and well-being of my 92-year-old mum is a constant juggle to ensure she has everything in place and is well looked after. I've learnt a lot through experience, but it's crucial that those of us now responsible for caring know where to get the right help and support for what has to be one of our greatest challenges."

Planning ahead for older carers

Gail Scott-Spicer continued:

"We need local authorities and society generally to think and plan ahead to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of older carers who are a vital resource to our stretched health and social care system.

"There are so many things that can be done to improve their situation – better co-ordination of their health care, information about local support at the earliest opportunity and before it becomes too late."