Living at home has always been the preferred option for most elderly and disabled people. Indeed, in relation to living with dementia we reported in our blog, ‘Why dementia care is so much better at home’ that, “85% of people would choose to live at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.”
With a desire to remain at home, however, often comes the need for a spouse, partner, child or other family member or friend to provide support and, potentially, increasing amounts of care. The vast majority of unpaid carers are known to have no training or preparation for this and very limited (or non-existent) financial support.
How many unpaid carers are there in the UK?
Statistics from Carers UK tell us that:
• “1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers.
• Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – that equals over 2 million people each year.
• 58% of carers are women and 42% are men.
• 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week.
• Over 1 million people care for more than one person.
• As of 2020, Carers UK estimates there are around 13.6 million people caring through the pandemic.”
Are you an unpaid carer?
Many people who provide care and support for a friend or family member don’t recognise themselves as an unpaid carer. This is reflected in the theme for this year’s Carers Week, ‘Make caring visible and valued’, with the Carers Week organisers saying:
“It is vitally important that we recognise the contribution carers make to their families and local communities, workplaces and society, and that they get the support they need.”
If you are reading this and wondering if you are an unpaid carer, consider this definition from the NHS:
“A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid.”
Advice from our live-in carers to unpaid carers
Over the years our live-in carers have supported a huge number of unpaid carers in many different ways. We’ve collected some of our learning below to benefit individuals who are supporting a loved one today.
• You can’t pour from an empty cup. Many unpaid carers that we meet are physically and mentally exhausted from caring. It is very difficult in the hectic day-to-day for unpaid carers to find time for themselves, but it is vitally important if a person is going to provide long-term care. If you are an unpaid carer, try to plan time for yourself when another family member, friend, neighbour or a charity volunteer (like a befriender or sitter – coronavirus restrictions permitting) might be able to look after the person needing care so that you can go for a walk, take a bath, have a nap, meditate, do some yoga or participate in any other activity that is going to make you feel mentally and/or physically refreshed. All of our domiciliary and live-in carers have access to the Calm app, and we would recommend this for unpaid carers too as it’s so flexible, with short meditations and breathing exercises as well as sleep stories.
• Your own health matters. Medical appointments, repeat prescription collections, or other health-related activities are just as important for you as an unpaid carer as they are for the person you are caring for. If you are unwell, you will be unable to care for the person and you will both suffer.
• Take up training opportunities if they are available. There are many free online courses that can be completed around caring commitments. Search for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) via MOOC List. Many of the leading health charities also run webinars and other information sessions for unpaid carers too.
• Reach out to charities who support unpaid carers. These include:
o Carers UK
o Carers Trust
o Age UK
o Independent Age
• Consider live-in respite care, or take up our increasingly popular option to trial live-in care for 2-4 weeks. Professional support for this period of time can enable an unpaid carer to take an extended break, whilst the person needing care is fully supported.
Find out more about how ENA Care Group could support you or your family by calling 0800 4334 413 or emailing .