Quick guide to support for older carers

Almost seven million people provide unpaid care and support for disabled, ill or older family members or friends, of which more than 1.8 million are aged 60 or over. Andrea Libman examines the issues older carers face, and some of the help and support available.

There are regular media reports about the crisis in health and social care services and the impact on society of an ageing population. However, there are fewer headlines about the almost seven million people who provide unpaid care and support for disabled, ill or older family members or friends, of which more than 1.8 million are aged 60 or over.

In this guide the focus is on the issues for older carers, and some of the help and support available to them from both the Oddfellows and other services. This year, Carers Week runs from 12-18 June - so look out for events in your local area.

Often, older carers have specific needs which may go unidentified because either they do not see themselves as carers, or are not identified by services. Older carers are often looking after their spouse, partner, parent or a disabled son or daughter and view this as their family responsibility rather than as a caring role. However, in effect, they have put their retirement on hold.

From the 2011 UK Census we know that:

  • There were around 235,000 carers aged 80 years and over.
  • 65% of carers aged over 60 have long-term health problems or a disability.
  • 69% of older people say being a carer affects their own mental health.

Practical support

The Carers Trust charity works to improve support, services and recognition for unpaid carers and recommends the main ways to improve the experiences of older carers, which include:

  • Having a carers assessment, arranged through the local social services department, which should help carers access support, including navigating the health and social care systems and planning for future care needs.
  • Focusing on taking care of their own health and wellbeing, such as making time to eat well, get enough sleep, exercise and attend social activities.
  • Getting prompt advice from the GP for their own symptoms and not delaying treatment or surgery due to concerns about the person they care for.
  • Having a free annual flu jab to support good health in winter.
  • Seeking support to cope with difficult emotions arising from the caring role.
  • Timely information, advice and assistance in relation to benefits and finances.
  • Knowing how to access funding to take a break.

Oddfellows help for carers

As well as Branch Care and Welfare support for members who have a caring role, there are other ways in which we let carers know that they are not alone.

Our Carer’s Respite Benefit is there to help the main carer of someone who requires on-going support arising from disability, long term illness or old age. It offers a break in one of our partner convalescence facilities, or a stay in a UK hotel of their choice with approval from the Care and Welfare Department. Alternatively, the benefit can pay for the person being cared for to stay somewhere that provides the level of care they require, or for care at home – allowing the carer to take time out in the comfort of their own home. If the carer and the person they care for are both members, it may be possible to use both their membership entitlements to enable the person being cared for to be looked after and for the carer to have a break away from home.

The Benefit is available to members after two years of membership, once they have paid their third year’s subscription, and then every other year if still eligible. To apply contact the Branch Secretary who will issue the application form (V422) for completion and return to the Care and Welfare Department.

The Oddfellows also offers members year-round information, advice, signposting and support through our helplines:

  • The Care and Welfare Helpline covers issues such as how to request a carers assessment and find local carers services, signposting to national charities for specific health conditions, emotional support and a listening ear.
  • The Oddfellows Citizens Advice Line carries out welfare benefit checks and advises on eligibility for Council Tax discounts as well as advice and guidance on Power of Attorney, Wills, Probate and Community Care enquiries.

Don't miss - Carers Week 2017

This year the annual awareness campaign runs from 12-18 June. Events will take place in local areas with a focus on building communities which support carers to look after their loved ones well, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own too.