Research shows that more than a quarter of unpaid carers’ mental health is bad or very bad, according to Carers Wales.
An online survey carried out between June and August 2023 reveals that widespread lack of support and recognition from health and care services is damaging unpaid carers’ mental health.
People caring round the clock for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives do not have adequate support from statutory services that are in place to help them - leaving many steeped in thoughts of hopelessness, fear and dread.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) of unpaid carers are in bad or very bad mental health, rising to 30 per cent of those caring for more than 50 hours a week, and 32 per cent for carers who had been caring for over 10 years.
82 per cent have continuous low mood, 82 per cent have feelings of hopelessness and 73 per cent regularly feel tearful.
73 per cent of carers with bad or very bad mental health are living with a sense of fear or dread.
Despite feeling they are at breaking point, three quarters of these carers are continuing to provide care.
More than half of the 1,290 carers responding to the survey said their physical health had suffered, and 23 per cent said that caring had caused them injuries.
Not getting support is taking its toll on worn out unpaid carers: having to wait long periods
for health treatment - or putting it off because of the demands of their caring role; being unable to rely on fragmented social care services to support with caring, and struggling financially because they cannot earn a higher income.
Statments unpaid carers shared in the State of Caring 2023 survey include the following:
“I am completely neglecting my own needs as my whole time is spent working full time, caring for my family and caring for my mum”
“Days just merge into one and there is no sign of light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Caring has ruined my health.”
Claire Morgan, Director of Carers Wales said:
“Unpaid carers in Wales make an incredibly positive impact on society, but feel unseen, undervalued and completely left behind by services that are supposed to give them the support they need.
“This is especially frustrating, when research shows that unpaid carers saved Wales £10.6 billion over a 12 month period.
“Being unable to take breaks from their caring responsibilities, not having the ability to prioritise their own wellbeing and constantly worrying about finances mean many carers in Wales are hitting rock bottom.
“Unpaid carers are long overdue both the recognition and support they need and deserve.
“The Welsh Government, local authorities and health and social care services across Wales must prioritise rapid, targeted interventions to better support unpaid carers and avoid exacerbating the caring crisis in Wales.”
Of unpaid carers overall, more than three quarters (79 pe cent) feel stressed or anxious, more than half (51 per cent) feel depressed, and half (49 per cent) feel lonely.
Two thirds of carers agreed that the increase in the cost of living was having a negative impact on their physical and/or mental health.
Carers Wales is urging the UK and Welsh Governments to tackle the immense health challenges facing unpaid carers.
The charity is calling on the Welsh Government to invest at least £1m to improve the experience of unpaid carers when their loved one is admitted or discharged from hospital and to create a dedicated fund for mental health support for unpaid carers.
The charity’s other recommendations include calling on the NHS to ensure all patient records include whether someone has caring responsibilities, and for NHS staff to be properly trained to identify people with caring responsibilities and understand carers rights.