“It’s very hard being a carer. I feel I have lost myself at times. I love my daughter, but I have no life”.
What is the issue?
Caring can be extremely rewarding, but there's also nothing more challenging than focusing on someone else's needs without neglecting our own. Whether caring around the clock, or balancing caring with work and family life, it can be exhausting.
Our research on loneliness in 2019 found that unpaid carers were seven times more likely to say they were 'always or often lonely', compared with the general population.i Our State of Caring 2021 survey found that 90% of carers said they had felt lonely, with a third of carers (34%) feeling lonely often or always. Some carers, including LGBT carers, are more likely to experience loneliness: 48% of bisexual carers reported that they often or always felt lonely, compared with 45% of lesbian and gay carers, and 33% of heterosexual carers.
Carers may feel isolated or lonely because they put the person they look after first, meaning they no longer have the time to see other friends and family. Working carers may feel unable to talk to colleagues about their caring responsibilities, or have to leave work altogether because they aren't supported to juggle work and care simultaneously.
The extra costs of caring and fall in income that many carers face, means they cannot afford to take part in social activities anymore. For many carers, their world shrinks. The role can become one of providing and co-ordinating care, taking their family or friend who they care for to medical appointments, going to the chemist, liaising with care workers – with little time to spare to think about their own needs.
“I have felt isolated because people often don’t understand the impact of living with someone who has mental health issues.”
What needs to change?
Increased understanding in society about the role and pressures of caring, as well as greater awareness of disability and ill-health, including mental illness.
The Government, Local Authorities and other organisations should provide targeted support for carers to get more involved with physical activity.
The Government should introduce carer awareness learning as standard for all health and care staff, and in key services.
The Government needs to ensure that carers have access to the breaks they need to look after their own health and wellbeing.
What Carers UK is doing
We raise awareness of the very important role carers play, to ensure greater understanding exists of the pressures and barriers that many face, as we look to build carer-friendly communities for all. We will continue to do this through our campaigning and public affairs work, as well by raising awareness through Carers Week and Carers Rights Day.
As part of our work with the Health and Wellbeing Alliance, Carers UK is also looking into good practice on carer breaks – seeing what works and what doesn’t for adult carers, young adult carers as well as for carers from communities, which face additional barriers.
We provide information and advice to support carers with their relationships and build their support as best they can.
We campaign for change for the services that carers need in order to remain connected and supported.
Career or care: Women, unpaid caring and employment in Northern Ireland
Report from the Carer Poverty Commission on barriers to work for women with caring roles in Northern Ireland.