The pressures of caring can take a toll on carers’ physical and mental health. 92% said that caring has had a negative impact on their mental health, including stress and depression. This impact is often exacerbated by carers being unable to find time for medical check-ups or treatment, with two in five carers saying that they were forced to put off treatment because of their caring responsibilities – unable to trust or find suitable and affordable replacement care.
Research by Carers UK includes cases of carers discharging themselves from hospital because of an absence of alternative care for the person they look after. The GP Patient Survey in 2013 highlighted the impact of caring on carer health – whilst 51% of non-carers had a long-standing health condition this rose to 60% of all carers and 70% of carers caring for 50 or more hours a week. The survey also highlighted higher levels of arthritis, high blood pressure, long-term back problems, diabetes, mobility problems, anxiety and depression amongst carers. Research by Carers Scotland in 2011 found that almost half of carers with health problems reported that their conditions began after they started caring. Of those whose condition predated their caring role, a quarter said their condition had worsened since becoming a carer.Carers attribute this health risk to a lack of support, with 64% citing a lack of practical support and 50% a lack of financial support, as major reasons for their poor health. Although most of the carers who were caring for at least 50 hours a week in a Carers UK survey had a GP who knew of their caring responsibilities (84%), of these carers, most (71%) said that their GP didn’t do anything differently to accommodate them. Very few had a GP who gave regular carers health checks or did home or telephone appointments.