Women are being driven to the brink by Britain’s social care crisis, with shocking figures revealing female carers are at higher risk of depression, loneliness and insomnia
- NHS survey of 50,800 unpaid carers found that 68% of them are female
- Half said they were not able to eat or sleep properly for lack of time
- Meanwhile 48% felt depressed and 21% said they were neglecting their health
- The carers are mostly 55-64 and a third of both sexes care for dementia sufferers
The appalling toll of the social care crisis on women can be revealed today.
Official figures show that looking after loved ones is having devastating effects on their health and quality of life.
Women are twice as likely as men to be left caring for a relative and are at much higher risk of depression, loneliness and other illnesses.
The figures come from a major NHS survey of 50,800 unpaid carers which found that 68 per cent of them are female.
Half of the women said they did not have enough time to look after themselves by either eating properly or getting enough sleep.
The Daily Mail launched a campaign two months ago calling on the Government to address the social care crisis urgently, particularly on dementia (stock image)
‘I gave up work to care for mum’
Isobel Woods became a ‘complete mess’ trying to juggle her job and look after her mother at the same time.
The 64-year-old was working full-time as a careers adviser while also acting as an unpaid carer. Eventually she gave up her job after being told off by her boss for leaving work early to check on her mother Hazel, 89, who has dementia.
Isobel, 64, (right) and her mother Hazel Woods, 89
Mrs Woods, who lives in Coventry with her husband Alan, 61, said her life ‘very rapidly became more and more difficult’. She said: ‘We were just constantly fire-fighting. There would be hospital appointments, dental appointments, she wanted to have her hair done – quite rightly, you needed to do those sorts of things to make her life worthwhile.
‘I wasn’t concentrating as much as I should have been at work but equally I wasn’t looking after mum properly either. It’s a hidden disaster. It’s impossible to do that and work. It almost always seems to fall on the woman.’
The mother of two said she was ‘drinking like a fish’ just to get to sleep. Her mother’s dementia has since worsened and she has moved into a care home.
One in five – 21 per cent – said they were neglecting their own health. Another 48 per cent felt depressed and 32 per cent had consulted their GP because their caring responsibilities were making them ill.
The Daily Mail launched a campaign two months ago calling on the Government to address the social care crisis urgently, particularly on dementia. Almost 345,000 readers have signed our petition demanding action.
Campaigners said the figures showed more state funding was vital. ‘Dementia care is a mess, and it’s mostly women picking up the strain,’ said Sally Copley of the Alzheimer’s Society.
‘Without a properly funded system of dementia care, more skilled and experienced women are leaving the workforce than ever before to look after family members and loved ones with dementia.’
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: ‘Each day many women go above and beyond to care for their loved ones. The failings of the care system means that women in particular are often left to pick up the pieces. Some are at breaking point and many are at risk of it.
‘Women shouldn’t have to care alone and unsupported as is happening far too often today.’
Yesterday Boris Johnson vowed to spend £13billion on 40 new hospitals at the Tory party conference in Manchester but made no mention of social care. He promised to fix the social care crisis ‘once and for all’ in his first speech as Prime Minister back in July but has not made any further announcements.
The Mail analysed the latest results from an NHS Digital survey of 50,800 adult carers which was published in late June.
The figures show that 78 per cent of women carers have limited control over their daily lives, some describing themselves as ‘socially isolated’. A third of carers of both sexes were looking after dementia sufferers with the rest coping with cancer patients or others with long-term conditions.
This research has been undertaken every two years since 2012/13 and the latest figures suggest the situation is getting worse.
Increasing numbers of the country’s estimated seven million carers report being depressed, socially isolated, lacking sleep or having to see their GP for reasons relating to their responsibilities.
The results were consistently worse for women, half of whom had been forced to take a financial hit, often because they had less time for work.
The Mail’s campaign is urging Mr Johnson to set up a cross-party group to find a funding solution for social care as well as appoint a dedicated Cabinet minister.
Research by the Alzheimer’s Society at the weekend suggested that 112,000 adults had left their jobs over the past year to look after loved ones with dementia.
A third of carers of both sexes were looking after dementia sufferers with the rest coping with cancer patients or others with long-term conditions (stock image)
Helen Walker of the charity Carers UK said: ‘Women in the UK are hit harder by unpaid caring responsibilities than men, particularly in their 40s, 50s and 60s. The negative impact this can have on women’s careers, finances and general quality of life is stark.’
The largest proportion of carers were in the 55 to 64 age bracket – a quarter of the total. As many as 37 per cent said they were suffering from physical strain, such as back problems from lifting, and 25 per cent said they had developed a health condition from caring, which might include joint problems or depression.
A further 65 per cent reported feeling stressed and 43 per cent said they were short tempered or irritable.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We are working to support unpaid carers by helping them to stay in or find employment and ensuring they have access to paid breaks or respite care.
‘We have given local authorities an extra £1.5billion for adult and children’s social care next year, on top of existing grants, to continue to stabilise the sector. The Government will set out plans to fix the social care system in due course.’