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Carers can't afford to be ill

09 June 2008
Carers across the country could be putting their own health at risk by ignoring symptoms or not finding the time to visit their own GP for help and advice. The results of a new nationwide survey of 2,000 carers - reveal that more than three-quarters of those questioned (77%) feel that their health is worse as a result of the strain of caring (for many, up to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

The survey, launched today as part of Carers Week 2008 highlights the effect that caring - whether on a long or short term basis - can have on the emotional and physical wellbeing of carers.

The survey shows that a large majority of carers admit to feeling ill, anxious or exhausted, with a staggering 95% of those questioned said they regularly cover up or disguise the fact that their health was suffering in order to continue with their caring responsibilities. Worryingly, one-fifth (19%) of these carers said they ignored feeling ill "all the time". Almost 1 in 4 (24%) of carers say they frequently felt unable to cope with their day-to-day duties due to the physical and emotional stresses of their caring role, and a further 64% said they were occasionally unable to cope.

Carers Week supporter, TV presenter and actor, Paul O'Grady (who has personal experience of caring), says; "I was surprised to learn that around 6 in 10 of us - from all walks of life - will become carers at some time in our lives. Wanting to look after our loved ones is human nature - but this sometimes comes at a price with many carers having to sacrifice their own health and well-being. Taking a break, a holiday or even time out to visit the doctor is just not an option. I have the utmost respect for carers and believe they deserve all the support and recognition as they can get - and more".

Based on the survey results, it is perhaps little wonder that the health of so many carers is suffering, with:

71% said that they hadn't been able to take at least one week of "holiday" or "free" time when they were not having to care for someone

3 out of 5 (60%) carers who are also in paid employment, say they have used part of their annual leave simply to allow them to devote more time to their role as a carer

One fifth of those (20%) said they used more than 10 days of their holiday allocation.

Paul Matz, Carers Week Manager, comments:

"Whilst we were saddened to see the results of this survey so obviously highlighting the fact that such a great number of carers are "suffering" because of their role and responsibilities, we were not surprised. The health and wellbeing of carers is always there - it is not confined to one week a year when we all stop and think about it. For many, it is 24/7. Who is caring for the carers?"

He adds: "It is vital that health professionals on the ground recognise the needs of people who are caring for others and ensure they are receiving the help and attention they deserve. With the right support, caring shouldn't have to be a demoralising and stressful experience. It can be rewarding and fulfilling - but only if carers themselves are feeling mentally and physically well."

Carers Week 2008 is jointly organised by 10 national charities: Carers UK, Counsel and Care, Crossroads Caring for Carers, Help the Hospices, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, Neurological Alliance, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and WRVS.

Over 6,000 events and activities are taking place throughout Carers Week.

Notes:

Carers Week is now in its 14th year. Supported by MPs, celebrities, local stakeholders and thousands of carers across the UK, Carers Week aims to inform carers, often isolated and not in touch with professionals and support organisations, about the huge amount of practical help and help that is available for those people who may be feeling isolated, exhausted or ill as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Source; 1,997 declared carers took part in the Carers Week survey between February and March 2008

Additional results from the Carers Week 2008 national survey include:

More than 2 in 3 of those questioned (67%) said there had been a number of instances when they had been unable to find an opportunity to visit their GP about their own health concerns, due to time constraints and a general lack of flexibility to leave the house to attend appointments.

Well over half (55%) said they had not had a chance to discuss their concerns about their mental or physical health with someone else (either a friend or healthcare professional) further highlighting the isolation and selflessness that many carers experience on a daily basis.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of people admitted that, to some extent, health problems had affected their ability to care.

This appears to be leading to extra worry and anxiety for carers about their situation with 96% saying they were very concerned about who would take over their role should they fall ill.

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