Chief Executive, Carers UK
The easing of COVID-19 restrictions means carers can now lean on some support from family members and friends after a year of caring mostly, or completely, on their own.
Looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older can be a hugely rewarding experience, but for many, caring also comes with its challenges.
These challenges have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic – especially for those providing significant hours of care per week. Over the last 15 carers have had to grapple with overwhelming levels of worry, exhaustion and loneliness. Some are coping without vital services they relied on before the COVID-19 pandemic and they are not sure whether they will be able to get the same level of support again.
A Carers UK survey published last October showed 81% of carers have been providing more care during the pandemic. Lockdowns meant carers were unable to pull on the informal support of friends and family as they might normally do, combined with reduced support from some health and care services has led to many forgoing breaks from their caring role and taking on more hours of care.
This Carers Week, 72% told us they hadn’t been able to take any breaks during the pandemic and 64% told us they had seen their physical health impacted, while 69% said their mental health has worsened.
Over the last 15 months carers have had to grapple with overwhelming levels of worry, exhaustion and loneliness.
Benefits of change
The speed with which we have harnessed technology in the last year has brought some positives for carers – including those caring from a distance. They have been able to use digital services to support them with caring and to stay connected with others; online video conferencing services have opened up new social networks and carers have joined in activities they might not have done in person because of caring.
We have seen an increasing number of carers join our Care for a Cuppa online chats. Better access to online appointments has helped with managing health and finances. Some working carers can now make the most of increased workplace flexibility.
Looking forward to summer
With restrictions eased once again and summer ahead, for many it means venturing further afield, seeing loved ones for the first time in a long while and getting the time out they deserve. For others, they look to vital support services to help them get back on their feet.