Health

Elderly carers 'need more support from GPs'

  • 12 September 2011
  • From the section Health
Holding hands
Call to give more support to carers

GPs throughout the UK should be giving more support to carers who are aged over 60, a charity says.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers says family doctors should offer older carers an annual health check, including screening for depression.

The charity says almost 70% of hundreds of older carers questioned in a survey said that their health was suffering because of their responsibilities.

Ministers admitted that more work needed to be done to help older carers.

More than 600 carers aged between 60 and 94 answered questions for a survey by the Princess Royal Trust.

Just over a third reported having cancelled an operation or treatment because of their caring responsibilities, while half said their health had got worse in the past year.

Crumbling spines

The charity's policy director, Moira Fraser, said: "Carers want to look after friends or family members - but often it's at the expense of their own health.

"We heard about people with crumbling spines, heart problems and cancer. Sometimes people's knees are so worn out they feel as though they can't walk at the end of each day.

"Others suffer from mental problems - such as stress and exhaustion. They worry about the future and have feelings of hopelessness."

She added: "One woman needed an ankle replaced, but she had to put off the operation because it would have meant being in plaster for three months.

"We hear positive words from the authorities. The important thing is for funding to make it through to a local level."

There are thought to be six million carers in the UK. Many of them are over retirement age.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers wants to see the NHS and local authorities fund training for carers to help them lift other people safely.

Action plan

Professor Nigel Sparrow, a spokesman on carers' health for the Royal College of GPs, said: "We fully support the recommendations.

"We are in a very privileged position in general practice in that we have a registered list of patients so that we know both the patient and family, allowing us to support the needs of carers."

Ministers in England have published a four-year action plan - Recognised, Valued and Supported - to support carers' mental and physical health.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Work is under way to address these concerns locally, but clearly more needs to be done to meet the needs of older carers.

"The Department has invested in a number of local sites exploring different ways of providing breaks for carers, and ways in which the NHS can better support carers with more flexible appointment times.

"An evaluation will be published later this year."

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