The Struggles of Looking After a Loved One

Caring for partner

Millions of people in the UK carry out unpaid care work for their family members. While this is admirable, it often comes at a substantial cost to their own mental health and wellbeing. It was estimated by charity Carers UK in 2020 that there were between 9 and 11.5 million unpaid carers working in the UK, with a huge increase during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also found that almost every 6 in 10 of carers are female, and over half of the female population in Britain will become carers by the age of 46-years-old.

Caring for others can have a negative impact on your own health

The carers’ unpaid and largely unrecognised workforce provided roughly £135 billion worth of services during the first eight months of the Covid-19 pandemic alone. However, any monetary savings to society have to be weighed up against the costs in terms of the negative impact on unpaid carers’ health and wellbeing. This is only made worse when you consider that 71 per cent of carers have either poor physical or mental health in the first place. When compared with the general population, carers are also twice as likely to be anxious and they are seven times more likely to experience loneliness.

In the United States, there was a report that was published by the NIH Clinical Center, which stated that the psychological impact of caring for a family member can have adverse medical outcomes, including impaired immune function, heart disease, and even early death. But what are the alternatives? Should carers place loved ones in a care home, or look to employ someone else to care for them in their own home? Sadly such options aren’t always financially feasible.

Carers need to look after themselves in order to look after someone else

Flower arranging at Connect

Any carers reading this are probably thinking, “that’s all well and good, but I don’t exactly have the time to care for myself.” However, there are different options available. For a short, regular break, you may be able to attend local social or support groups. Many groups are set up so that carers and the person cared for can attend together, such as Guideposts CONNECT groups in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

Of course, you may want to consider looking into the possibility of at-home respite care services. With this type of care service, a carer may live-in or visit, to take over from time to time – ensuring you get the help you need so that you can take time out and prioritise your own health too. You will find many services that will look after personal needs, but you may decide a befriending service such as Befriending for Wellbeing may offer a longer visit, and therefore enable more of the break you need.

With live-in care, you can still see your family member in the comfort of their own home, yet you can have the peace of mind that they’re getting the help they need. As a report by the Live-In Care Hub has revealed, the vast majority of people want to live in their homes for the rest of their lives. This is largely because it allows them to keep their independence and dignity while generally enjoying a happier life from the comfort of familiar surroundings.

Final words on the struggles of looking after a loved one

There are millions of unpaid carers throughout the UK who are at risk of burning out right now. This can easily happen when you’re on the go 24/7, and worried about the person you’re caring for. This is why it’s more important than ever that carers get the help and support they need to prioritise their own health and wellbeing.

Caring at Christmas Campaign Graphic

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