“An unpaid 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.”
Nationally, it is thought that 4.5 million additional people have taken on caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
The results of a recent survey by Healthwatch Hampshire highlighted the challenges for unpaid carers as follows:
- Unable to get a break
- Problems getting essentials like food and medication
- The closure of day services and schools
- An increase in the hours devoted to caring
- Difficulty explaining the pandemic to vulnerable people
- A lack of recognition and respect
- Problems accessing health and social care services
- Unsure of the help and support available for carers
As well as financial pressures and problems with employment, carers found their family relationships under great strain and many struggled with their mental health – feeling isolated, frustrated, sad, worried, bored, trapped and fearful about the future.
Nearly 200 carers took part in the survey and over 70% said that their hours spent caring had increased during the pandemic. 75% said their mental health had been affected.
“[My daughter] has been diagnosed with autism which is why she couldn’t cope with so much change. Moving her into my house was the only option. I was working from home and it meant I could keep her calm, shop and cook for her and she didn’t need to deal with the strange world outside. It was tiring physically but very draining mentally.”
“There was no emergency support that I could access so I moved my mum into my dining room for approximately 6 weeks and became her full-time carer. Whilst I did this willingly, I often felt over-whelmed and “on my own”.”
Based on what helped carers to get through these really difficult times, Healthwatch Hampshire suggested three themes to campaign for more support in the future:
Protect – elements which helped carers during the pandemic, which they want to protect and keep going into the future
Grow – elements which need to increase or improve in the future to offer more support and help to carers if they are to remain useful
Create – things which don’t exist currently but would be really helpful to carers in the future
Click here for more information and resource links, and to download the full report from Healthwatch Hampshire