28 September 2016
An estimated 110,000 people in the UK are caring for a parent with cancer – and have children living at home
Around 110,000 people in the UK are caring for a parent with cancer, which could include everything from taking care of finances to washing and dressing them, while also looking after their own children, according to a new report launched today by Macmillan Cancer Support.
Under pressure – The growing strain on cancer carers reveals that almost 1 in 10 cancer carers are “sandwich caring.”2 Most of them (89%) are also juggling a job as well as caring for someone with cancer.
The report, based on research commissioned from You Gov, shows that the majority (70%) of all cancer carers are aged 45 or over. In 2011, over half (57%) were in this age group.3 The overall number of cancer carers has risen by nearly a third (31%) to almost 1.5 million 4 in the last five years.
Macmillan warns of the debilitating effect caring for someone with cancer can have on a person’s life. Up to 7 in 10 (70%) of all cancer carers experience mental health problems as a result of caring, including stress, anxiety and depression. Caring is also having a greater impact on the physical health of those who care such as exhaustion and insomnia.5 Additionally, almost one in three carers (30%) say their income or household finances are affected and four in 10 (43%) of those currently in employment report that caring affects their working lives.
While carers are carrying out more complex tasks and putting in more hours of care than ever before, worryingly more than half (55%) are not getting any additional support - a figure that has not improved from 2011.
Many do not see themselves as carers or do not know what support is available. This means they can remain hidden from health and social care professionals who are unaware they are struggling.
Macmillan provides a range of information for carers through its website, information resources and telephone helpline which is staffed by cancer specialists who offer practical, medical, emotional and financial support. The charity is urging cancer carers to get in touch to ensure no one has to cope alone.
The charity relies on fundraising and voluntary donations for 99% of its income, to fund its vital services. Events such as Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on 30th September this year are key to ensuring Macmillan can carry on supporting carers and people affected by cancer.
Nikki Crossley, 41, from Kent, discovered she was pregnant with her second child a month after she found out her mum’s breast cancer had spread to her brain in 2014. She said:
“Becoming my mum’s carer just kind of happened. Before I knew it I was in charge of her medication, her doctor’s appointments, cooking her meals, paying her bills, helping her dress and get to the toilet. Recently she became confused after a bladder infection and I was up half the night trying to settle her, then I still had to get up early to sort the kids out and head to work myself, exhausted.
“I feel guilty that I’m not able to put my children first. It’s upsetting to realise I’ve not been able to do the same things with my 16 month old son as I did with his older sister. I feel like I’m constantly being pulled in two different directions. It’s overwhelming at times and sometimes I wonder if I do any of it well – but I do the best I can.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“It’s saddening to hear of the growing strain on cancer carers. In extreme cases a person may have to dress, feed and take their parent to the toilet whilst also dealing with the school run, and a full-time job. Too often, this “sandwich generation” of carers find themselves pulled in every direction by a physically and emotionally draining juggling act that can cause their finances to come under pressure, their working lives to suffer and their own health to bear the brunt.
“It’s not just “sandwich carers” that are facing this uphill battle. Carers across the UK, looking after their mothers, sisters, brothers or friends, are carrying out more caring tasks and for longer. Many are doing it with a real sense of pride and privilege but this doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. For those of you caring for someone affected by cancer, we know it’s getting tougher. We also know you don’t always have the time, or energy, to seek help. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get whatever support you need. From our information centres and mobile information bus, to our support line and online community, Macmillan is here for you.
“But we can’t do it alone. It’s not too late to hold a coffee morning or to find a local World’s Biggest Coffee Morning to attend this year. Whether it’s at home, school or work, every cup of coffee and slice of cake shared helps us ensure carers and people affected by cancer don’t face it alone.”
Macmillan offers information and advice to people caring for someone with cancer on its website www.macmillan.org.uk/carers and support line 0808 808 00 00. To get a Word’s Biggest Coffee Morning kit, visit https://coffee.macmillan.org.uk/
For further information, please contact:
Jess Owen, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2407 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
The research consisted of two phases:
- Phase one: Face-to-face interviews with 6,487 people from the UK general population via the TNS omnibus survey, between 26th February and 22nd March 2016 – this identified the overall proportion of cancer carers in the UK population. 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. Results have been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population according to age, gender, UK region and socio-economic group. Data weighting and all analysis carried out by YouGov. The estimated number of cancer carers in 2016 is 1,416,000.
- Phase two: An online survey with 892 UK cancer carers only, via YouGov’s online panel, between 4th and 18th April 2016 – this allowed us to explore the experiences of carers in more detail. The survey was carried out online. Results were weighted by age, gender, social grade and region to reflect the overall population of carers identified in phase 1.The unweighted UK breakdown of the sample was as follows: England: 740 people; Scotland: 87; Wales: 47; Northern Ireland:18. The breakdown within England was as follows: North East: 40; North West: 91; Yorkshire & Humber: 81; East Midlands: 62; West Midlands: 73; East of England: 83; London: 72; South East: 136; South West: 102.
- Please note :8% of respondents from phase two were caring for a parent and also had children living at home, which we refer to throughout this release as ‘sandwich carers’. The population estimate of c.110,000 is based on applying the incidence of sandwich carers ( 8%) to the total estimated number of carers in the UK (1,416,000).
2. “Sandwich generation cancer carers” make up almost 1 in 10 (8%) of cancer carers.
3. Macmillan Cancer Support/Ipsos MORI. More than a Million: Understanding the UK’s carers of people with cancer. 2011. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Cancerinfo/Ifsomeoneelsehascancer/More_than_a_million.pdf
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 above) 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.
4. The estimated number of cancer carers in 2016 is 1,416,000 compared with 1,080,000 in 2011, an increase of 31%.
5. One in five (20%) carers experience one or more issues with their physical health as a result of caring, compared with around one in eight (13%) in 2011. The separate Phase 2 study found that 35% experience one or more issues with their physical health as a result of caring.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk