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Carers at Breaking Point

Caring for an older or disabled loved one can take a serious toll on carers’ mental and physical health, their personal relationships and family finances. Without the support they need, this can lead to carers’ collapsing through exhaustion, suffering physical injury or becoming overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. When you love someone you go on regardless. You have no choice, even when you know it is damaging your health and emotional wellbeing.

This research sets out the findings from Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey 2014, examining the experiences of over 5,200 carers – asking if they have ever reached breaking point, the causes of crisis and what support would have prevented it. Their experiences show that insufficient support from health and social care services is leaving carers isolated, burnt-out and unable to look after their own health.

The consequences of carers’ health breaking down can be devastating. Carers UK has heard from carers who have collapsed and been admitted to hospital alongside the person they cared for, or who have be forced to refuse essential medical treatment for themselves because they cannot find replacement care to look after an older or disabled loved one. Others have been forced to quit their jobs when it all became too much, but have then had to resort to using up their savings or even selling their homes to cope financially.

On top of the personal impact of breakdown on carers and their families, there are serious risks for overstretched health and social care services and our wider economy. With a rapidly growing number of families taking on caring responsibilities and an even more rapid increase in the number of carers caring round-the-clock. But at the same time, social care and NHS services face unprecedented demographic pressures and the Government continues to make sharp cuts to social security.

This divergence between reducing support and families’ growing need is unsustainable. This report shows that, unless urgent action is taken we will see even greater numbers of carers pushed to breaking point, at great cost to family life, public services and our economy.

This report is based on responses from over 5,200 carers to Carers UK’s 2014 State of Caring survey. The majority (84%) were caring, full-time, for more than 35 hours a week. The results reflect the responses of carers from across the UK (81% from England, 10% from Scotland, 7% from Wales and 2% from Northern Ireland).