27 July 2007
A new, in-depth survey1 of 3,500 carers has uncovered the negative impact that their role can have on the relationship they enjoy with their partner. Two thirds (66%) of those surveyed said their relationships had suffered, six in 10 of whom complained that their sex lives had taken a back seat as a direct result.
A further 60% of those adversely affected said they had little quality time together with their partners. And yet the all-consuming nature of caring is such that when carers did get time to relax, more than a fifth (21%) used it to catch up on their sleep, with a further 26% using the opportunity to carry out chores.
The survey, launched today as part of Carers Week (11-17 June), sheds light on the devastating effects that looking after a loved one can have all aspects of a carer's life. The research looked in detail at carers' feelings about a range of issues, including finances, career, health and relationships.
The strain caring can put on relationships is highlighted by the situation of Nancy (54), who cares for her 59 year-old husband with Parkinsons. She says: "We now sleep in separate bedrooms as the medication he is on causes him to have terrible nightmares and he needs to go to the toilet frequently during the night. Although our love has grown stronger over the years, the dynamics of our relationship have changed so drastically that our sex life is now non-existent."
The survey also reveals that almost two-thirds of carers (63%) felt a loss of identity as a direct result of their caring role, whilst an alarming three-quarters of carers had not had a regular break from their caring activities in the past 12 months - including 38% who had not enjoyed a single day off.
Paul Matz, Carers Week Manager, says:
"The impact of caring on people's lives is so absolute, it's little wonder that it goes on to affect relationships, both emotional and physical. Our survey reveals this is one of the most difficult challenges of all."
The detrimental effect caring has on people's finances is also revealed. More than two thirds (67%) are financially worse off, with a quarter (28%) unable to support their family properly.
The financial situation of carers is likely to be weaker because they are less able to focus on their career, according to 57% of those questioned. The key problems were reduced promotion prospects and being unable to take up training opportunities. 40% of carers also found it difficult to get back on the job ladder when returning to the workforce.
Carers believe their working life could be made easier if they received greater support from their boss (20%) and more understanding from their colleagues (18%).
When asked which words best described their experience of being a carer, stressful (74%) and demanding (71%) generated the most votes from respondents. 31% of carers find the role rewarding and one fifth (20%) fulfilling.
Paul Matz adds:
"Caring can create a vicious circle of problems which all impact on each other – being demoted or losing a job can lead to financial difficulties which can, in the worst case scenario, lead to losing a home. This in turn can cause high levels of stress, depression and feelings of despair. When carers say they care 24/7 they mean it.
"Many carers are isolated and do not know where to turn for support. More must be done to make 'hidden' carers aware of the support and services that are available today. With the necessary help, carers do not need to feel at their wits end, alone and with no-one to turn to."
Carers Week aims to draw the attention of decision-makers to the issues faced by the UK's six million carers amid calls that more needs to be done to help change the lives of carers for the better.
In Parliament, Barbara Keeley MP has promoted a motion that calls for an updated and improved National Carers' Strategy to address specific issues such as improvements to carers' benefits, how carers can find suitable services to help them and the person they care for and how they can maintain their own health and well-being. Over 250 MPs have already signed up to the motion.
2007 sees the 13th annual Carers Week, jointly organised by seven UK-wide charities; Carers UK, Counsel and Care, Crossroads Caring for Carers, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, Rethink and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.
Thousands of events are taking place throughout Carers Week. For details about these and for more general information about Carers Week, please visit www.carersweek.org
For more press information, a full breakdown of the survey results or to arrange an interview with a case study/Carers Week spokesperson/celebrity supporter, please contact Tracey Thompson or Caroline Beswick on 020 8786 3860. Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org