New Age UK research shows that older carers (80 plus) provide 23 million hours of unpaid care a week, helping the Government save £23 billion annually.
Almost 1 in 3 (30%) older people aged 80 and over are carers and since 2010, the number of carers in this age group has grown by nearly a quarter (23%) to 970,000.
23 million hours of caring a week comes at a cost to carers own health and wellbeing, Age UK reports, many of whom already have their own long-term health conditions, and are unable to leave the home or get sufficient breaks from their caring duties.
New analysis shows that 7 out of 10 (71%) have long-standing health problems of their own with nearly 1 in 2 (46%) having difficulty with moving about at home, walking, lifting, carrying or moving objects.
Furthermore, 24% of carers in this age group are caring for more than 35 hours a week, while a further 13% are caring for more than 20 hours a week. As the population continues to age, it is estimated that there will be 4.6 million people aged eighty and over by 2030.
Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over who are providing informal care for another person has risen from 2.7 million to 3.3 million in the last eight years.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said, 'Nearly a million older carers are helping the Government save a whopping £23 billion a year and it’s high time these fantastic older people got something back in return.
'Almost all of them willingly provide care for the person they love, typically a sick or disabled husband or wife, son or daughter, but by repeatedly failing to sort out our social care system, the State is exploiting their goodwill and often leaving them to manage incredibly difficult situations alone.
'The burden placed on these older carers’ shoulders is not only physical and emotional but financial too, because after years of Government under funding, so many older people who need care are having to pay for it themselves, wiping out the savings they’ve worked hard for all their lives and sometimes resulting in the family home having to be sold.
'Blessed as it is with such a substantial Parliamentary majority, our new Government is better placed than any in the last twenty years to refinance and reform social care. The Prime Minister has promised to fix care and now he needs to follow through, with no more excuses or delays - surely it’s the least our brilliant older carers deserve.'
Len, 84, full-time carer for his wife, said, 'I have only one hand, arthritis of the spine, nodules on the nerve canals in my spine and I’ve suffered from two strokes. I don’t have time to think about me! I didn’t even realise I had had one stroke, let alone two! We’ve each worked for most of our lives, paying our taxes which we still pay on our pensions, which seems grossly unfair.'
Responding to the new Age UK analysis of carers, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said, 'the plight of older carers is one of the unseen scandals of our failing social care sector. They should be seen as a great resource who should be supported. Instead, too often they are left to fend on their own, neglected and unsupported. The result of course is that too often they end up being unable to cope.
'We need a system that does not leave it to the last possible moment before stepping in. And this matters as much to the NHS as it does to local government – health services are stretched to, and, in some cases, beyond the limit just now and that is partly because we lack the support services in the community.
'Health leaders have told us that the crisis in social care is a threat to patient safety, and no wonder.'
Responding to Age UK’s research on older unpaid carers helping the Government to save £23 billion annually, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said, 'Most people over 80 have health problems of their own and can do less than they once could, so the fact they are providing £23 billion’s worth of unpaid care for others is a sure signal that our social care system is failing.
'Older carers are far more likely to be caring for someone with multiple needs, dealing with complex conditions like dementia and physical disabilities. Yet often they care alone, unable to take a break or step out the door for long, leaving their own needs at the wayside.
'Older carers who have contributed – and continue to contribute – so much to our society deserve far better. This crisis in social care needs to be taken seriously by all politicians. We urge the Prime Minister and his Government to acknowledge our country’s carers by taking firm steps towards delivering an enduring social care solution in the first 100 days of office. We need to get social care done.'