This year Carers Week warns that, unless more support is provided, UK’s carers won’t be healthy enough to care for loved ones in the future. It highlights the physical and mental strain felt by unpaid carers and calls for the building of communities that support their health and wellbeing.
Around 6.5 million people in the UK are carers, providing unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness or mental health problem, or who needs extra help as they grow older. Caring can be a hugely rewarding experience, but sometimes carers find it challenging to take care of their own wellbeing.
Research shows that 72% of carers in the UK have suffered mental ill health because of caring, while 61% say their physical health has worsened.
Carers are more likely to have physical or mental health conditions and often neglect them. Three in five carers have a long-term health condition, compared with half of non-carers. The pattern is even more pronounced for younger adults with 40% of carers aged 18-24 having a long-term health condition compared with 29% of non-carers.
Carers are more likely to experience stress, anxiety and worse mental health. Half of carers say their mental health has got worse, 78% say they feel more stressed, and 72% say they feel more anxious.
Carers often experience loneliness and social isolation which can have a negative impact on health. Carers who felt lonely or isolated were almost twice as likely to report worsened mental and physical health.
The research also shows:
- over half of carers say they expect their physical and mental health and well-being to get worse in the next two years
- a third feel that poor mental health will mean they'll be able to provide less or no care in the future
- carers are most likely to say that the impact of stress and anxiety on their own health and wellbeing is their main worry about the impact of caring
- carers named the main stressors as not getting enough sleep, providing hands on care for the person they care for and managing financially.
BACP has long recognised the importance of carers being able to access therapy. Research studies from 2012 highlight the vital importance of counselling services being advertised where carers can easily see them; rather than them having to ask their GP.
The reports also acknowledge that carers find it difficult to attend face to face counselling services away from their home, and recommend other ways for the therapy sessions to take place, such as by telephone or other appropriate digital technology.
In these studies, therapy provided carers with skills and coping strategies for the future, something all carers in the UK should benefit from.
Counselling the carers
Danuta Lipinska considers how counselling can help carers of people with dementia cope in often overwhelming circumstances. Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, April 2016
Dementia and embodied psychotherapy
Free article: Beatrice Allegranti has created a short ﬁlm to help clinicians and professional and family carers develop their understanding of the experience of people with dementia and support them creatively. Therapy Today, March 2016
Parenting a disabled child
Joanna Grifﬁn explains the emotional support needs of parents of children with special needs, and how counsellors can help. Therapy Today, October 2016