As women’s life expectancy is longer than men’s, there will continue to be more older women who are carers and more who have long-term health conditions and life limiting illnesses. At least 10% of Calderdale’s population are carers at least 59% of whom are women. Nearly twice as many women as men provide more than 50 hours care per week.
Often carers experience loss of self-esteem, poor mental health and they do not get the opportunities that many people take for granted, for example being able to socialise, work full-time or even have necessary medical treatment/surgery. Carers provide billions of pounds worth of care at great expense in terms of health and finance each year
There are 5.2 million carers in England and Wales. Approximately 1.9 million care for 50 hours or more per week (Census 2001). It has been estimated that carers saved the UK £57 billion in 2002. According to the Carers UK report, the average care raves the nation £15,260 per year. The value of carers is likely to grow for the foreseeable future as the number of older people is rising and the majority of carers care for older people.
Informal care is the most important source of care for older people living in the country today. In Britain in 2004 it was estimated that approximately 80% of people aged 65 and over living in private households who have help with domestic tasks rely exclusively on unpaid informal help, ie from spouses, other household members, relatives outside the household, neighbours and friends.
Carers in Calderdale
In 2001 there were approximately 20,000 carers in Calderdale, 10% of the population. Of these, 41% were male and 59% were female.
Provision of unpaid care in Calderdale (Census 2001)
1-19 hours care/week
20-49 hours care/week
50+ hours care/week
Calderdale Carers Project database is the best local source of data on carers, although they only have contact with a small proportion (just under 5%). In 2008 their database showed a spread of the age of people being cared for, but almost half of those being cared for were over 65 years. The conditions that led to people needing care were:
Physical disabilities including old age (just over a quarter)
Learning Disabilities (about a fifth)
Mental health (about a fifth)
Alzeimers and dementia (about a quarter)
The effects of caring on the carers, especially for those caring for more than 50 hours per week, are documented in national reports. Calderdale Carers Project found that 40% of carers on their database had one or more health problem. Of these:
About 25% had a physical
another 25% had an emotional health problem
About 50% had both a physical and emotional problem
A report launched on 13th September 2011 by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers reveals that 70% of older carers suffer a devastating impact on their health due to their caring role. The report “Always on Call, Always Concerned” highlights the concerns of older carers while demonstrating how essential it is to support local centres that look after older carers’ needs.
Based on a survey of 639 carers aged 60-94, the report found that:
65% of older carers have long term health problems or a disability themselves and
seven out of ten (68.8%) say that being a carer has an adverse effect on their mental health.
Of the UK‟s approximately six million carers, around half are aged over 50 and 1.5 million of these are carers over the age of 60 alone.
The pressures of caring also particularly affect older carers in other ways; a major concern for eight out of ten is what will happen to the person they care for in the future. And only half feel safe or confident in lifting the person they care for.
The Trust points out that greater focus on helping older carers maintain their health is crucial. Local authorities and local health providers need to give greater recognition to the benefit of supporting older carers. Centres support carers of all ages, but a high percentage of users of the service are older people. This means that most carers’ centre services are designed to meet the needs of older carers including availability of home visits, emergency planning and group activities that meet the needs of older carers.
Liz Fenton, Chief Executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers says: “The survey clearly shows how carers can harm their own health when looking after others. Many carers told us about being in severe pain, with crumbling spines, arthritis, back problems, cancer, kidney problems, depression and heart problems but struggling on in their caring role.
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers is calling for easily accessible, comparatively low cost preventative services at local level which can improve the lives of carers. This will enable people to choose to be cared for longer at home and ultimately save public money.”
The population projections for Calderdale make caring for carers an important local issue. This is of particular relevance to women as over 60% of carers who provide more than 50 hours care per week are women.
There is also a lack of data about carers of all ages in Calderdale and their needs. This should be addressed as a priority over the next few years.