More than one million people will be providing care and support for a terminally ill loved one this Christmas, according to an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the charity Marie Curie.
The results of the survey are included in the charity’s ‘Hidden Costs of Caring’ report, which looks at the valuable contribution of unpaid carers and how it impacts on their own well-being.
Researchers have for the first time identified the number of people providing informal, unpaid care and includes those who may not identify themselves as a carer.
People who do not see themselves as carers may be missing out on support, says Marie Curie. This is despite eight in ten unpaid carers saying their caring duties impact on their own health, and more than half of those surveyed had suffered from depression.
Marie Curie’s report also highlights that not all carers are being provided with support when caring for someone at the end of life and after their death. Too many are not having their own needs recognised and are not receiving appropriate levels of help and support.
The report warns that an ageing population will see more people with care needs, but fewer unpaid carers available to meet the demand. Marie Curie says this could result in greater need for state-funded end of life care and more people who need care missing out.
Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Simon Jones, at Marie Curie said: “With over one million people saying that they are supporting a loved one with a terminal illness – which is a population roughly the size of Birmingham – it’s impossible to imagine how health and social care providers would cope if there wasn’t this huge amount of unpaid support for loved ones at home.
“Often people don’t see themselves as carers, they are just supporting a loved one in every way they can.
“Our report highlights the impact caring for a loved one can have on physical, emotional and financial wellbeing. Their support should not be taken for granted and we must make supporting these carers a priority.”
Researchers from the University College London (UCL) estimate that unpaid carers to people with terminal cancer provide health and social care worth £219million each year.
However, this only accounts for one-third of the cost of end-of-life care for people with breast, lung, colorectal and prostate cancers.
The total cost is estimated to be in the region of £641 million a year, and takes into consideration the cost to the Government of replacing unpaid care with formal providers.
Marie Curie believes that around 110,000 people a year don’t receive the care they need at the end of life, and are calling on the Government to find the resources to care for increasing numbers of people with a terminal illness.
Marie Curie is a leading charity that helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together. See how you can help support their vital work here.