How do older carers look after loved ones and take care of themselves? It’s a question faced by an increasing number of people. To mark the start of Carers Week, we look at the importance of taking a break from caring.
Many of us look forward to retirement as a chance to spend more time travelling or enjoying favourite leisure interests or trying new things we’ve never done.
But research by Age UK and Carers UK shows that almost 1.3 million people aged 65 or older are carers in the UK and the number of over 85-year-old carers has doubled in the past decade, to 87,000. One in three carers aged 65 to 74 give more than 50 hours of care a week. More than half of those aged over 85 do so.
The majority of carers over 65 are looking after a partner, although some are looking after elderly parents, or grandchildren, or relations with disabilities.
Taking a break from caring
Hubert, now 83, cared for his wife Phoebe for 12 years, while she suffered from advanced dementia. He said a positive attitude and taking breaks was vital:
‘Our three children were fantastic, even though they all had demanding full-time jobs. They would take it in turns to take her on holiday or have her to stay. That was the main break I got each year.
‘Phoebe also went to a day centre two or three times a week and I took those opportunities to do things locally. I kept very active in my neighbourhood. My advice to other people in a similar situation is to never allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Get yourself involved in things which you can do.’
Asking for help
The right support needs to be in place to help older carers understand the support and benefits system, maintain social links and ensure their health is also looked after.
Family carers do an amazing job caring for partners and older relatives, allowing that person to remain in familiar and comfortable surroundings.
They often do this with little support, but there is help available. Our free site, Which? Elderly Care, gives advice on benefits that are available for carers, such as carers allowance, and how local authorities can help.
Are you an older carer looking after a relative or partner? What do you do to take a break from caring? What would help to make things easier for you?