A report released by Age UK today reveals that an army of people in their 80s or older are being relied on as carers.
The number of carers aged 80 or over has increased significantly over the last seven years with the report estimating that 417,000 people are now providing unpaid care in some form or another to family or friends, almost a 40% increase from 301,000 in 2009. The findings come from a yearly representative household survey of 15,000 people aged 60 and older.
The majority of carers are caring for their partners. An Age UK spokesman said that, although most carers want to provide this care and are committed to doing so, many are exhausted and worry how long they can continue. Many feel they have no alternative but to carry on.
It is also thought that 144,000 – more than half of carers over 80 - are providing care for someone in their home for more than 35 hours per week. This means that they could be entitled to Carer’s Allowance, currently £62.10 a week, without realising that they could be eligible for this benefit.
The report also found that 156,000 are providing care for more than 20 hours a week and estimates that, as the UK population increases, there will be more than 760,000 carers by 2030.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, acknowledged that a huge debt of gratitude is owed to all the carers over 80 who are providing nearly full time care and saving the health and care services nearly £6 billion a year.
Commenting on the findings, Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy at Carers UK, said: “Our ageing population calls for greater investment now, from Government, social care services and the NHS to meet the increasing demand for care but also support the rapidly expanding numbers of older people who are themselves providing care. Action is urgently needed to ensure that older carers have the support they need and are not left caring alone by shrinking support services.”
Helen Hammond, senior associate in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, said: “We see many instances where the quality of elderly care provided by the health services is poor and we understand why families feel they have no alternative but to provide the care themselves.
“But the provision of care for our loved ones should not be borne alone by the eldest in our society. Attention needs to be given to how such services can support our carers now and in the future, as the demand increases.”
To read more about the work that Penningtons Manches does for families and elderly patients, click here.