Soaring numbers of mid life carers – ‘worn down emotionally, physically and financially’
As the population of Britain ages, with it comes the question of how to deal with the inevitable. Recent research has found that one in five employees aged 45 and over expect to have to leave their job to care for an adult relative and half of them will become ‘sandwich carers’ who will then become ‘worn down emotionally, physically and financially’.
There are, according to new research, approximately 2.6 million employees who will have to make some sort of financial sacrifice in terms of loss of salary, pension and savings so they can take on caring responsibilities. The research found that 20% of mid-life women were likely to leave their job to provide care, but not far behind are men (17%) in the same age bracket.
An ageing population and pressure on health and social care budgets means that more and more people in the UK are becoming unpaid carers.
The value of care provided by unpaid carers in the UK has been calculated as £132 billion per annum, equivalent to the value of a second NHS.
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Yet despite the UK’s rising number of unpaid carers, successive governments have failed to prioritise investing in long-term and sustainable funding for social care.
However, for the first time, there are now significant numbers of people in mid-life who end up as carers, caring for both an older relative as well as children – know known as ‘sandwich carers’ – and overall, they are not doing well.
In another report, this time from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) it says more than a quarter of such “sandwich carers” are now suffering from depression or stress.
Of the 2.6 million looking after a parent – there are 1.3 million people with multi-generational caring responsibilities, with many feeling ignored and undervalued and feeling the build-up of managing their own lives on lower incomes – sandwiched between two generations needing constant care. The ONS report warns of the hidden pressures being carried by these mid-life carers – with warnings that they can be worn down emotionally, physically and financially.
For those with more than 20 hours per week of caring, the ONS says a third are experiencing some kind of mental health problems, which might be stretched out over many years. They risk becoming isolated, running out of money and being constantly under pressure – while trying to juggle between responsibilities of care, work and their own relationships.
Worryingly, despite the large numbers of mid-life workers expecting to have to leave their job to care for a relative, just 6% of employers considered caring pressures as a significant issue faced by their employees.
This is a growing problem for a “time-poor and stressed” generation, says Helen Walker, chief executive of the Carers UK charity.
The charity estimates that about two million people have already left work as a result, with consequences for their finances, careers and wellbeing.