New figures by Age UK show that an army of carers amongst the oldest old in our society (80 years old and over) provide 23 million hours of unpaid care a week which adds up to 1.2 billion hours of care a year, saving the health and care system a massive £23 billion a year.
Almost 1 in 3 (30 per cent) older people aged 80 and over are carers and since 2010 the number of carers in this age group has rocketed by nearly a quarter (23 per cent) to 970,000.
The staggering amount of hours of caring a week comes at a cost to carers own health and wellbeing, many of whom already have their own long-term health conditions, and are unable to leave the home or get sufficient breaks from their caring duties.
New analysis shows that 7 out of 10 (71 per cent) have long standing health problems of their own with nearly 1 in 2 (46 per cent) having difficulty with moving about at home, walking or lifting carrying or moving objects.
Furthermore, 24 per cent of carers in this age group are caring for more than 35 hours a week while a further 13 per cent are caring for more than 20 hours a week.
As our population continues to age it is estimated that there will be 4.6 million people aged eighty and over by 2030.
The Charity is highlighting the huge but often hidden contribution to our society by older carers while also shining a light on the shocking levels of care being provided by them.
The majority of these older people are looking after a partner as older couples try to manage living at home for as long as possible, leaning on each other for support. A minority care for disabled sons and daughters.
Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over who are providing informal care for another person has risen from 2.7 million to 3.3 million in the last 8 years.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Nearly a million over 80 year olds are gifting the Government a whopping £23 billion a year and it’s high time these fantastic older people got something back in return.
“Almost all of them willingly provide care for the person they love, typically a sick or disabled husband or wife, son or daughter, but by repeatedly failing to sort out our social care system the State is exploiting their goodwill and often leaving them to manage incredibly difficult situations alone.
“The burden placed on these older Carers’ shoulders is not only physical and emotional but financial too, because after years of government underfunding so many older people who need care are having to pay for it themselves, wiping out the savings they’ve worked had for all their lives and sometimes resulting in the family home having to be sold.
“Blessed as it is with such a substantial Parliamentary majority, our new Government is better placed than any in the last twenty years to refinance and reform social care.
“The Prime Minister has promised to fix care and now he needs to follow through, with no more excuses or delays – surely it’s the least our brilliant older Carers deserve. “
Len, 84, full-time carer for his wife said: “I have only one hand, arthritis of the spine, nodules on the nerve canals in my spine and I’ve suffered from two strokes. I don’t have time to think about me!
“I didn’t even realise I had had one stroke, let alone two! We’ve each worked for most of our lives, paying our taxes which we still pay on our pensions, which seems grossly unfair.”
Responding to Age UK’s research, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Most people over 80 have health problems of their own and can do less than they once could, so the fact they are providing £23 billion’s worth of unpaid care for others is a sure signal that our social care system is failing.
“Older carers are far more likely to be caring for someone with multiple needs, dealing with complex conditions like dementia and physical disabilities. Yet often they care alone, unable to take a break or step out the door for long, leaving their own needs at the wayside.
“Older carers who have contributed – and continue to contribute – so much to our society deserve far better. This crisis in social care needs to be taken seriously by all politicians.
“We urge the Prime Minister and his Government to acknowledge our country’s carers by taking firm steps towards delivering an enduring social care solution in the first 100 days of office. We need to get social care done.”