BOPF Carer’s Survey Report – May 2021
Are You Looking After Someone Else?
You can download the report HERE
The Bristol Older People’s Forum (BOPF) wishes to thank all those who took part in the survey and returned questionnaires, and to those individuals from BOPF and Bristol Ageing Better, who gave advice on the design of the questionnaire.
‘Our report highlights many of the issues facing older carers across the city. The findings and recommendations will help to strengthen future support to carers and those they look after.’
Ian Bickerton, BOPF Chair of Trustees
This small-scale research survey has been commissioned by Bristol City Council’s (BCC) Adult & Social Care Commissioning team, to help reshape services and support for people looking after others. The survey focussed on older people in Bristol and we wanted to uncover a snapshot of existing carers and those who may have ‘fallen through the net’.
The findings highlighted a number of significant challenges for carers and those they look after. These included the significant effects on mental health and well-being, the need for respite that recognises the differing needs of individual carers, the frustrations for many who are accessing support, or not knowing what support is available, and the need to be valued and listened to as carers.
“I need to be respected as the expert in the people I care for, I need to be included as a partner in the care of the people I care for. I need society to wake up and realise that if unpaid Carers stopped doing what we do the country would need to double the size of the NHS and social care.”
The research revealed a diverse picture of the challenges for carers and those they look after. It also showed that the majority of people take on their caring role willingly and want their relatives, friends and neighbours to have the best care. However, for many the demands of caring put a huge strain on work/life balance leading to emotional stress, and mental health problems. These have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, during which many people have had no breaks or respite at all.
The key findings are summarised below.
a) The demands on carers are highly complex and diverse, from supporting someone with occasional shopping to looking after someone full-time in the home.
b) Older people supply a disproportionate amount of care, and as our research reveals, older women are more likely to be looking after loved ones. There were high levels of people in the oldest age range caring for partners, siblings and/or disabled children. Of those people doing full-time care, 40% were aged seventy-five or over.
c) Many older carers have underlying health conditions themselves affecting mental and physical health and are worried about their ability to continue to meet the needs of their loved ones and how the longer term care needs will be met.
d) The Covid pandemic has increased the number of new carers and highlighted additional challenges around the dearth of services, information and social connection. The effects on mental and physical health of carers are evident.
e) The Covid pandemic has also led to a significant reduction of services for both carers and the people they care for. Support at present is either non-existent or patchy and compounded by the challenge of finding accessible and useful information.
f) Carers want to be valued, acknowledged and supported and not made to feel like a ‘burden’ on the state.
g) Carers want to be recognised as ‘partners in care’.
h) The need for different levels of respite was highlighted, including specialist care for complex conditions such as Dementia and Autism.
i) Respondents also highlighted the need for an improvement in financial support available, including a rise in the Carer’s Allowance. Many have struggled to balance their work-life with caring, again adding to the financial burden.
j) In contrast the research also highlighted some of the positive aspects of caring. There were examples where relationships, although challenging, have brought people closer together. People acknowledged that their role as a carer made them feel useful, valued and improved their well-being. Others identified a sense of shared history and a bond by reflecting on the past and the good times.
k) Our research highlighted that many services are now online only, which has brought additional challenges, such as communication problems, for many carers and those they look after.
l) There is a need to support carers and those they look after as their personal circumstances change over time.
m) There is a need for more opportunities for carers to talk to other carers to discuss the challenges of looking after loved ones.