26 November 2012
More than 50,000 people in the UK may be providing over a working week’s worth of care to a loved-one with cancer - despite already holding down a full-time job, according to research by Macmillan Cancer Support1.
The research, carried out by Ipsos MORI, reveals that just under half (46%) of people currently caring for someone with cancer are in full-time work, representing around 500,000 people in the UK. Of these, one in nine (11%) provide more than 35 hours of care a week, equating to around 50,000 people 2.
In total, more than one in six (16%) people currently caring for someone with cancer provide more than 35 hours a week of support. One in ten – or around 100,000 people in the UK - provides a staggering 50 hours or more of care each week 3.
Kate Henwood, 42, from Sussex, worked as a full-time childminder while caring for her husband. She says:
"For more than a year I juggled a full time job with caring for my terminally ill husband and young son. Being a carer is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, and I was permanently 'on duty'. It left me with no time or energy for myself, I didn't sleep well and usually had to cope with no more than four hours a night.
“I hit rock bottom a couple of times - but I was never offered a Carers Assessment, or had any formal support, other than from my wonderful Macmillan nurse.”
Despite saving the state money4, half (49%) of cancer carers interviewed receive no support whatsoever – either formally or informally - to help them look after their loved-one with cancer.
This lack of support may explain why nearly half (46%) suffer with emotional and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, and one in eight (13%) say it’s causing physical health issues such as exhaustion, sleep and digestive problems.
Other research shows cancer carers who do not have flexible jobs or employers often have to take sick leave or annual leave in order to meet the demands of caring. In some cases cancer carers have to give up work completely, which negatively impacts on household finances5.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Dealing with the relentless physical and emotional pressures of caring for someone with cancer is hard enough, combining it with a full-time job is extremely difficult and can drive carers to breaking point.
“To state the obvious, as the number of people living with cancer doubles in the next 20 years from two to four million, the number of carers is also going to increase.
“It’s vitally important cancer carers are fully supported both at home and at work to enable them to cope with the tough demands of their role. If they are left to struggle on their own it will cost carers their health and even their job. It will also put a significant strain on the NHS.”
Macmillan is urging carers in need of information or support to call 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/carers. The charity is also working with employers to help them support people with cancer, and their carers, in the workplace. More information can be found at www.macmillan.org.uk/work
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For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Openshaw, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4699 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1 Macmillan Cancer Support/Ipsos MORI. More than a Million: Understanding the UK’s carers of people with cancer. 2011.
People currently supporting someone with cancer were defined as carers for the purposes of the research if they provided more than five hours of care a week (‘care’ was determined by asking them if they did any of a range of activities for someone because they had cancer) or provided 1-4 hours of care a week but said it had an impact on their lives. It does not include those who provide care as their paid job or voluntary work. Please see the full report (on the link below) for a more detailed explanation of how carers were identified as part of this research.
Research carried out via Ipsos MORI’s face-to-face omnibus survey of the general public. Fieldwork conducted between 20 May and 25 August 2011. 18,449 members of the UK public aged 15+ were screened to identify current carers of someone with cancer. In total 386 fitted eligibility criteria and were interviewed in more depth. Results have been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population.
From the sample of the public interviewed, 2.1% of the UK population aged 15+ were identified as currently caring for someone with cancer (using the ‘carer’ definition outlined earlier). Converted to a population estimate (using ONS 2010 Mid Year Population estimates) this equates to 1,080,000 adults aged 15+. As a sample of people were interviewed rather than the whole population, this estimate could lie within a range calculated to be 960,000 – 1,200,000.
2 46% of carers surveyed are in full time work, either as an employee or self-employed. Using the estimated total population of current carers (of 1,080,000) as a basis, this equates to around 500,000 people who are carers and in full time-work.
11% of carers who are in full-time work (and 5% of all carers) provide more than 35 hours of care each week. Again using the estimated total population of current carers (of 1,080,000), this equates to around 50,000 carers in full-time work who give more than 35 hours of care each week.
3 10% of carers give at least 50 hours of care each week. Using the estimated total population of current carers (of 1,080,000), this equates to around 100,000 carers who given at least 50 hours of care each week.
4 Carers UK estimate that carers as a whole save the state £119bn a year
5 Stenburg U, et al. Review of the literature on the effects of caring for a patient with cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 2010. 19: 1013-1025.
Carers provide a whole range of support to loved ones with cancer: from emotional support, to practical things like helping with shopping/errands, providing transport for trips to hospital/appointments, doing household jobs, providing personal care, and administering medicine.
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