Monday, September 12, 2011

How can we best help older carers?

I have to say that I read the Princess Royal Trust for Carers report on the effects of caring duties on older carers with a bit of trepidation.  Two thirds of older carers have a long term health problem themselves, more than a third never get a break from caring and over three quarters said that their caring duties had a negative impact on their mental health.

The report makes modest but practical recommendations:

  • carer over 60 to have an annual check of their physical and mental health
  • local authorities to take into account the financial pressures on this group
  • Government to use benefits to improve things for this group of carers
  • co-ordinated support if the carer needs surgery or is otherwise ill
  • training for carers in lifting
  • help to plan for the future, for when they may not be around.
  • caring breaks in ways that suit individual carers
  • recognition by health and social care professionals
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie recently spent 24 hours with a couple who care for their severely disabled daughter.  When he was an MP, his first Early Day Motion was about Carers' Benefits. Having helped many people in his constituency with issues relating to caring, he knows and understands what people have to go through.

He had this to say about today's report:
Carers both young and old carry out tremendous work, often in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. “With an aging population, the reliance on unpaid carers will increase and so will the difficult situation that many older carers find themselves in, many putting their own health at risk to care for loved ones.
 “Scottish Liberal Democrats want a much more fine-tuned focus on these unsung heroes. Support is vital to relieving some of the burden on carers.
 “Local Authorities should work with agencies like the NHS, local peer and friendship groups to make sure carers and their families feel supported in their own communities.
“Simple steps can make a huge difference. It is time for the Scottish Government to outline what it will do to support Scotland’s carers.
For me, I think it's important that carers have someone they can talk to who can sort all the different agencies out, and who can make sure that they get the support they need, not what a remote state says rather grudginly that they're entitled to, whether it suits them or not.

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