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One in seven “oldest old” providing unpaid care to loved ones

27 May 2016

The number of people being relied on as carers in their 80s or older has grown significantly over the last seven years, according to Age UK.

The charity says that one in seven of the “oldest old” is now providing some sort of unpaid care to their family or friends. Many of these people are exhausted and they say they worry about how long they will be able to carry on caring.

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Caring can involve anything from help with washing and dressing to looking after people with health and mental conditions.

Lack of Government support

These findings come from a yearly household survey of people aged 60 and over, giving an estimate for the entirety of the UK.

Throughout 2009, it was estimated that 301,000 people in their 80s were carers. This figure has now risen by nearly 40%, largely due to an ageing population and partly due to a lack of state support, says Age UK.

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Charity director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, has said: “The task of providing care ought to be fairly shared between individuals, families and the state, but as public funding falls further and further behind the growing demand for care, we worry that very old people are being expected to fill the gap. They can’t do it all on their own and we shouldn’t take advantage of their determination to do right by those they love.”

Social care services

The charity Carers UK has called for extra investment in social care services and for the NHS to meet the increased demand.

The Department of Health has begun consulting on how it can improve support for carers. Community and Social Care Minister, Alistair Burt, said: “We owe a great deal to the love and determination of older carers. I want to make sure the government does everything it can to support them. That is why I’m calling on carers and their supporters up and down the country to let us know how we can make a difference.”

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Asbestos-related conditions and carers

There are currently more than 7,500 people being diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions each year in the UK, meaning that there is a potential for a further 7,500 carers needed.

The impact on families of those diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition means at least 25,000 people in the UK are finding themselves in a position of providing some form of care.

Asbestos-related conditions can take anywhere between 10 and 50 years to develop. This means many carers who look after those affected by these debilitating and devastating conditions are in their 70s and 80s and could be struggling with their own illness.

Asbestos-related conditions are known to cause severe breathlessness and tiredness in sufferers. They may require a lot of help to complete the simplest of tasks, such as getting dressed, climbing the stairs and going to the toilet. Carers are left to help with these tasks, and more.

Being ill is expensive

Even activities that don’t appear to be strenuous become daunting when living with a lung condition, such as gardening and cleaning the house. Families might not have the money to pay for someone else to do these jobs.

Being ill can be very expensive, as many people know. Those affected by an asbestos related condition are no different. The majority, if not all, of the people who were heavily exposed to asbestos were skilled or semi-skilled labourers and were considered to be blue collar workers – not earning a great amount of money, usually just enough to live off of at the time. It is doubtful that they were able to save enough money to cover any costs in later life, and probably would not expect to have to pay for any help around the house or have to have life-style aids installed, such as stair lifts, which can cost anywhere between £2,000 and £6,000.

It is very important for families and individuals acting as carers to have the financial support they need made available.

Further reading

What is asbestos?

What is mesothelioma?

Six questions that may establish whether an unexplained lung condition could be asbestos related


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