Carers’ health buckling under the strain

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Two in five unpaid carers are sacrificing their own health by putting off medical treatment to continue to look after an ill, frail or disabled loved one.

A survey conducted during Carers Week was completed by 322 people in Scotland and 3400 across the UK.

It revealed that caring had a negative impact on 87 per cent of respondents’ physical health with 41 per cent sustaining a physical injury, such as back pain, through caring.

It also showed:

88 per cent said caring for a family member or friend had a negative impact on their mental health.

62 per cent of carers blamed their poor health on a lack of practical support.

51 per cent said their situation was being made worse because there was not enough financial support.

Charities have called for positive action to end the care crisis.

Mary, who lives in Falkirk with her husband, is just one of those who has suffered.

She has been his full-time carer since he suffered a stroke a few years ago.

He refuses to allow anyone else in to help and relies exclusively on her for everyday support. As a result, because of tiredness and a lack of sleep, Mary’s own health has been affected.

When she had to go into hospital for an operation last year, her husband would not allow an alternative care package to be put in place, adding to her concerns for his welfare.

She said: “Often the person being cared for does not realise how ill their carer is and, if there is mental impairment, the person being cared for can’t always judge for themselves that they need care.

“The carer would like peace of mind that there will be alternative support in place while they are in hospital, but in my case there was not because my husband did not accept that he needed this.”

Florence Burke, director for Scotland of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said: “Carers, young and old in Scotland are vital in sustaining the health and well-being of others yet too often sacrifice their own health to support the people close to them.

‘‘We will continue to work to make sure statutory providers take account of carers and their needs and that the specialist services provided by local Carers’ Centres receive continued funding for the essential role they play.”