Report unveils the stark reality of life for unpaid carers in the UK

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A new report has unveiled the reality of providing unpaid care in the UK, with women often being saddled with a ‘triple whammy’ of responsibilities as they juggle their mounting care commitments due to having ‘no other choice’. As many as 10.6m people work as unpaid carers in the UK, with recent figures finding that these people save the government £162bn every year

A Sussex-based healthy ageing influencer has shared her experience of caring for her elderly parents after a leading industry report reveals that women aged 59 are the most likely to perform unpaid care duties in the UK.

The ‘Unpaid and Under Pressure’ report by TakingCare highlights the realities of unpaid carers in the UK, with 1 in 3 adults likely to give up work to care for their elderly parents because there is ‘no one else who can help’.

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According to the report, which includes YouGov survey data of 2000 adults, 67.3million hours of unpaid care are performed every week in the UK. The report also revealed the reality of caring for an elderly relative, with one in two people feeling they will have “no choice” but to care for their elderly parents when they become frail, and one in three citing that there is “no one else who can help” and that they would not be able to afford the average four year stay in a care home for their elderly relative.

As many as 10.6m people work as unpaid carers in the UKAs many as 10.6m people work as unpaid carers in the UK
As many as 10.6m people work as unpaid carers in the UK

Jacqueline Hooton, aged 60, is a healthy aging advocate based in Bognor Regis with over 250K followers on her Instagram account @hergardengym. The mum of three works full time as an influencer and personal trainer and has two older children living at home and a son at university. Like many women in the sandwich generation, Jacqueline has now taken on the responsibility of supporting her elderly parents alongside her family responsibilities and work commitments.

TakingCare’s survey of 2000 adults found that when asked who should perform care duties for elderly parents, daughters were the first choice. This is reinforced by data from the 2021 Census which revealed that unpaid carers are typically women aged 55-59 years old.

Often elderly care concerns are raised after a person has a fall. For Jacqueline, this was also the case, and her concerns were raised after receiving a message from her mother that she’d had a fall. Jacqueline said:

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“Despite telling me not to worry, I was understandably anxious when I received this message from my mother recently.

“My father is eighty-five years old, and my mother is eighty. They have lived in their seaside cottage for over fifty years, and it’s where I grew up.

“I live a five-minute walk away from my parents, so when I received the message from my mother telling me she’d had a fall, I was able to visit her straight away.

“I was concerned when I saw her as her face was bloodied and bruised, and she had sustained several other cuts and bruises to her limbs. Luckily, she didn’t break anything though.”

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Commenting on her experience with her parents, Jacqueline highlighted how her mother’s fall triggered concerns over her elderly parents’ care and the need to open up the conversation with them.

“My parents are more fortunate than many older adults who live alone. On the day my mother fell she knew my father would eventually find her. However, she fell over in the garden at the back of the house, my father was in the front of the house at the time and didn’t hear her calling for help.

“This experience made me, and them, realise that despite my parents relatively good health, and having one another, they are still potentially vulnerable. If my father had been out swimming or playing golf when my mother fell, she could have been left lying in the garden for some considerable time.”

For many elderly adults in the UK, conversations about care can be awkward. Findings from TakingCare’s report reveal that two in three people aged over 70 have not shared their care plans with their adult children, despite this demographic having a one in three chance of having a fall each year.

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“I’m very close to my parents and I live just around the corner from them. It enables me to pop in and see them frequently.

“They are fiercely independent, but they sometimes need help with navigating newer technology. I have recently become more involved in supporting them through illnesses and accidents such as falls.

“I work full time and have older children who still live at home as well as a son at university. It’s currently manageable as my parents don’t require day to day care, but I can see this may become more stressful as their needs change.

“As my parents have faced some health challenges and changing needs, my emotional stress has increased. I have a good support from the rest of my family, which helps. I am adept at managing my own stress because as a fitness professional I know how important this is for midlife women and our future health.”

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TakingCare’s report revealed that nine out of 10 adults have not discussed future care plans with their parents. Half of people aged over 50 have not discussed with their parents what will happen when they become too frail to care for themselves, despite this demographic being most likely to have elderly parents.

Jaqueline, who uses her role as an influencer to encourage women in their 50s and 60s to embrace healthy aging, has lent her voice to raise awareness of the importance of breaking the taboo on elderly aging and conversations about care.

In light of her experience and the findings of the report, Jacqueline is encouraging more adult children to have conversations about care with their elderly parents, before lifechanging accidents occur.

“This is an incredibly difficult and challenging subject to broach,” Jacqueline explains. “I believe we would benefit from a nationwide awareness campaign, to normalise the concept of discussing this subject before it becomes an urgent problem to address. In terms of my own parents, they are very clear about their wishes, and I hope I can support them in living out their remaining years accordingly.

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Jacqueline advises that adult children and their elderly parents must take a proactive approach to consider future care needs.

“Taking a proactive approach means once these preventative measures are in place, a contingency plan will also be beneficial. As my parents have addressed the preventative measures, together we started to discuss contingency plans

“In terms of caring for my own wellbeing, I am physically active, eat a well-balanced diet, have good stress management strategies, and prioritise rest and restorative sleep. These are all important for healthier ageing.

“However, the experience with my parents means I will be aware about the potential stress and worry my children could have about me as I become older. I have many open conversations with my adult children, I am sure this will continue and evolve over time to discuss any care needs as and when they arise.”