New research from Carers UK has shown that unpaid carers need greater support, and are feeling isolated and lonely.
The charity say that greater understanding from friends, colleagues, and the public, as well as more opportunities for breaks are crucial in terms of combating the ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness that’s affecting carers.
According to the report, conducted as part of the charity’s work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, more than 8 in 10 of the unpaid carers described themselves as “lonely or socially isolated” – and this could have a damaging impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. The report suggests that carers who haven’t felt lonely are less likely to suffer mental and physical ill health, compared to those who did. Carers who had felt lonely were almost twice as likely to suffer with poor mental and physical health.
One of the biggest issues faced by carers is their unwillingness to talk about their responsibilities, which has am impact in work, at home and in the community. A third felt uncomfortable talking to friends about caring, and the same number felt isolated at work.
According to the people surveyed, the following would make a difference in combating their loneliness:
- Regular breaks from caring (54%)
- More understanding from society (52%)
- Being able to take part in leisure activities (40%)
- Support paying for social activities (31%)
- More understanding at work (30%)
- Being in touch with other carers (29%)
- Feeling more able to talk to friends and family (23%)
- Being able to take part in education or training (21%)
The research also revealed that certain circumstances make carers feel lonelier – younger carers under 24, carers of disabled children, those who care more than 50 hours a week and ‘sandwich careers’ (people who look after loved ones alongside parenting) are more likely to feel lonely.
The Jo Cox Commission aims to ‘Start a Conversation’ around loneliness, by destigmatising the issue.
Helena Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Loneliness is a powerful, sometimes overwhelming, emotion which all-too-many carers experience in silence. Caring touches all our lives yet society and public services often fail to grasp how isolating looking after a loved one can be. Caring for someone is one of the most important things we do but without support to have a life outside caring, it can be incredibly lonely worsened by financial pressures, poor understanding from friends and colleagues, and a lack of regular breaks.
“Given the significant mental and physical health benefits of breaking this isolation, we’re asking everyone to start a conversation about caring.
“Jo Cox said that ‘young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’. We are honoured to be working as part of the commission to work towards her ambitions for a more understanding and supportive society and to be remembering Jo in our creative writing competition with the Jo Cox Poetry prize. Together, we can show how starting the conversation can help break isolation.”
Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, Co-chairs of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, said: “There is no ‘quick fix’ to all the challenges of caring for a loved one but we can all tackle the lack of understanding that can make carers and their families feel alone.
“Jo Cox strongly believed that ‘we have far more in common than that which divides us’. We know the power that the right conversation can have – whether at work, with a friend, with your GP, or with a stranger in a supermarket queue. Working together – individuals, government and as a society – we can reduce loneliness, one conversation at a time.”
To find out more, head to www.carersuk.org/loneliness