A new report from TakingCare Personal Alarms, Unpaid and under pressure: are Brits trapped caring for elderly parents? has revealed exclusive insight into the reality of unpaid carers in the UK. Statistics from Carers UK finds that 4.3m people become ‘unpaid carers’ every year, receiving no financial support and often juggling work and family life priorities.
- Data reveals that 10.6 million Brits perform unpaid care duties in the UK, with 600 people leaving work every day to care for loved ones.
- TakingCare’s new report Unpaid and Under Pressure highlights the realities of women who leave work to care for their elderly relatives, with rising costs and poor social care options leaving them with ‘no other choice’.
- In light of the findings, Jaqueline Hooton, a Sussex-based healthy ageing influencer with over 250k followers shares her experience of caring for her elderly parents and how having early conversations about care can help to lessen the burden and put contingency plans in place.
According to the report, many Brits struggle with the reality of caring for an elderly relative, with one in two people saying they have “no choice” but to care for their elderly parents when they become too frail. Further to this, one in three feel there is ‘no-one else who can help’ and 32 per cent say they cannot afford rising care home costs.
Two-thirds of Brits also consider women to be the primary candidate to care for elderly parents when the time comes, with one in three females saying they would even consider giving up work to care for the older person in their lives. Nine out of ten people have not discussed future care plans with their parents, with 50 per cent of people aged 50+ saying they have not discussed what will happen when their parents become too frail to care for themselves.
Britain is in a social care crisis, with many people being forced to provide an ever increasing level of care for elderly relatives, friends and neighbours due to a lack of support. According to the report, which includes YouGov survey data of 2000 adults, 67.3million hours of unpaid care are performed every week in the UK. The report also revealed the reality of caring for an elderly relative, with one in two people feeling they will have “no choice” but to care for their elderly parents when they become frail, and one in three citing that there is “no one else who can help” and that they would not be able to afford the average four year stay in a care home for their elderly relative.
TakingCare’s survey of 2000 adults found that when asked who should perform care duties for elderly parents, daughters were the first choice. This is reinforced by data from the 2021 Census which revealed that unpaid carers are typically women aged 55-59 years old.
Jacqueline Hooton, aged 60, is a healthy ageing advocate based in Bognor Regis with over 250K followers on her Instagram account @hergardengym. The mum of three works full time as an influencer and personal trainer and has two older children living at home and a son at university. Like many women in the sandwich generation, Jacqueline has now taken on the responsibility of supporting her elderly parents alongside her family responsibilities and work commitments. Jacqueline said:
“Despite telling me not to worry, I was understandably anxious when I received this message from my mother recently. My father is eighty-five years old, and my mother is eighty. They have lived in their seaside cottage for over fifty years, and it’s where I grew up. I live a five-minute walk away from my parents, so when I received the message from my mother telling me she’d had a fall, I was able to visit her straight away. I was concerned when I saw her as her face was bloodied and bruised, and she had sustained several other cuts and bruises to her limbs. Luckily, she didn’t break anything though.
“My parents are more fortunate than many older adults who live alone. On the day my mother fell she knew my father would eventually find her. However, she fell over in the garden at the back of the house, my father was in the front of the house at the time and didn’t hear her calling for help. This experience made me, and them, realise that despite my parents relatively good health, and having one another, they are still potentially vulnerable. If my father had been out swimming or playing golf when my mother fell, she could have been left lying in the garden for some considerable time.”
Jacqueline advises that adult children and their elderly parents must take a proactive approach to consider future care needs.
“Taking a proactive approach means once these preventative measures are in place, a contingency plan will also be beneficial. As my parents have addressed the preventative measures, together we started to discuss contingency plans. In terms of caring for my own wellbeing, I am physically active, eat a well-balanced diet, have good stress management strategies, and prioritise rest and restorative sleep. These are all important for healthier ageing. However, the experience with my parents means I will be aware about the potential stress and worry my children could have about me as I become older. I have many open conversations with my adult children, I am sure this will continue and evolve over time to discuss any care needs as and when they arise.”
Claire Baker, elderly care expert at TakingCare Personal Alarms, says of the data: “This latest report goes a long way in helping us understand how people in the UK are caring for elderly relatives, and how we’re currently having conversations about elderly care.
“We are aware of the challenges people encounter when it comes to having open and honest conversations about what will happen to your parents when they cannot care for themselves as they once did, but with almost 90% of people saying they have not discussed these plans with their mum or dad, more needs to be done to open up the conversation. While every family dynamic is different, we are also acutely aware of the additional pressure placed on women in particular, who are faced with caring responsibilities alongside other commitments.
“Studies show that having conversations about care early and putting preventative measures in place can make a significant impact on healthy ageing. While for many people, care homes will form a natural part of an elderly person’s care plan, talking about preventative measures such as reviewing trip hazards and using fall alarms can drastically reduce the risk of accidents and increase levels of independence.
“At TakingCare, we are keen advocates for opening up these difficult and sometimes awkward conversations, making way for increased transparency to allow families to have a considered plan in place when the time comes, helping alleviate pressure off friends and family members while also supporting older people in maintaining some level of independence.”