Social workers need more awareness of ‘exhausted’ older carers

Social care professionals have been urged to become more aware of the needs of older carers after a survey found two-thirds had long-term health problems.

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Social care professionals have been urged to become more aware of the needs of older carers after a survey found two-thirds had long-term health problems and half said their physical health had got worse in the last year.

Carers aged over 60 were “overwhelmingly exhausted and worried”, with most doing at least 60 hours a week of caring, found the survey by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Among key findings were that one-third of older carers had cancelled treatment or an operation they needed due to their caring responsibilities, while four in 10 said their mental health had deteriorated in the past year.

More than eight out of 10 older carers had worries about what would happen to the person they cared for if they could no longer provide care.

“With an ageing population ever more people will take on a caring role in their retirement,” said the report. “Being a carer means they should not be expected to give up their health, wellbeing or aspirations. Government, health and care services, professionals, and wider society as a whole needs to recognise the role older carers play and offer greater support.”

It said this highlighted the need for easily accessible, comparatively low-cost preventative services at local level.

Older people’s social worker Pam Stopforth, dementia development co-ordinator at Liverpool charity PSS, said professionals needed to be aware of the value of giving carers time for themselves and of the value of listening and having a conversation with them.

She said a particular problem is carers are frequently not given enough information or are not signposted to the right service so do not even know, for example, that they are eligible for a carers’ assessment.

Stopforth said: “The big frustration and tension for most organisations is getting communication right. If people are given information and have access to it, that can keep them positive because they can see what can be done,” she said.

Earlier this year Stopforth took part in a social experiment called Isolation Week in which she pretended to be an isolated elderly person for a week.

As a result, she now advocates the use of a befriending service whereby someone is always at the other end of a phone for older people on their own. Such a service is promoted by PSS and Liverpool Hope University for dementia care and potentially could be extended to other areas, she said.

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