Around 3.8m unpaid carers look after someone aged 65 and over, and that’s just in England. Maybe you’re one of them, or care might be completely alien to you. But if you did need information and support on care, where would you go for it?
Taking on the role of an unpaid carer can be fulfilling, but it can leave you feeling isolated, lonely, anxious and even depressed. It’s not easy for carers to find time for themselves, and even if they manage to they can be left feeling wracked with guilt.
That’s why it’s vital that information and support is easily accessible to carers, and why our new carers hub is designed to help bridge this information gap.
The ability to easily access information can have a huge impact on the life of a carer. During the development of our new ‘Carers hub’ we spoke with Which? Member Daphne from Gloucestershire who has been caring for her husband Mike for almost 40 years.
Mike suffered a brain injury following an attempt to take his own life through carbon monoxide poisoning in the 1970s. Daphne struggled to care for her husband and hold down a full time job for 22 years with little help or support. One morning she found she couldn’t get up and was only able to stare at her bedroom wall, her body and mind had just given up.
After making contact with her local social services, within 24 hours there was someone helping her put her life back together. After completing a carer’s assessment, she saw in black and white all aspects of her life were affected by being a carer: money, time, health, emotions – in short, everything in her life was given over to her husband.
It was only then she realised that her health problems were stress related. By getting help she was suddenly able to see how much caring for Mike had taken away from her life.
When we spoke to Daphne and told her about the carers hub on Which? Elderly Care, she shared her advice to carers:
‘The sooner you get the carer’s assessment done, the sooner you know what is out there to help you. Don’t wait until you’re at the point of crisis, like I did. Find out what support is available for the day you might need it.’
A hub of information
Our recent research found that nearly a third (31%) of unpaid carers struggled to find the information they need. So the new Carers Hub on Which? Elderly Care aims to help bridge this information gap, by offering advice to unpaid carers like Daphne across the UK.
A key starting point for any new carer is to arrange a carer’s assessment, allowing carers to get information on the financial support and the services available in your area, as well as advice on how to take a break from a caring role.
A problem shared…
There are many facets to the challenge of ensuring carers have access to the support and information they need, from the fact that many in this position don’t identify themselves as being an unpaid carer, or some because they are short of time. It’s worrying to see that despite local authorities having information available, many unpaid carers are struggling to find and make use of it.
But examples, such as Daphne, highlight just how much of a difference the right information, support and advice can make to a carer’s quality of life. Supporting unpaid carers and equipping them with all the tools they need is vitally important.
So do you, or have you, cared for anyone? Are you a member of a national or local carers organisation? What do you think can be done to ensure carers have access to the information they need?