UK/ Issues Encountered by Family Carers of the Elderly
Caring for ageing parents can put a huge strain on families, particularly those people who may also be looking after young children at the same time. There are both emotional and financial implications to negotiate, and if the parent or parents being looked after have a degenerative condition, such as Alzheimer's, those caring for them can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and unsure how best to meet the needs of their parent and their own family at the same time.
This problem is one that increasing numbers of families will have to face as the UK population ages. By 2034, 23% of the population is projected to be aged 65 and over, compared to only 18% being aged under 16 and over 3 million people are projected to be over the age of 80. Currently there are 750,000 people in the UK with dementia, of which two thirds are women. The number of older people in the UK in need of care and support is expected to reach 1.7 million over the next 20 years, and it is estimated that by 2025, over one million people will have dementia, which is a truly terrifying statistic.
Many of these people are already looked after by family members. It’s estimated that family carers save the state around £6 billion a year and that currently 12% of the adult population in the UK is a carer of an elderly relative. With a stagnant economy, austerity measures and budget cuts to all major services, including care, the state may not be able to provide care for all individuals and more and more families will need to care for their elderly relatives, as well as work for a living and care for their young families. These carers will themselves need to work for longer to help the state fund the needs of this ageing population.
'Elderly Parent Responsibility Stress Syndrome' (or EPRSS) has been coined as a phrase to describe how many of us feel when faced with the idea of caring for ageing parents. Whilst not all families will find themselves in extremely stressful situations as they adjust to looking after an elderly parent, taking on more responsibility for their parents does have significant emotional implications. Sometimes, caring for an elderly parent can add responsibility just at the point that children leave home and people might have had more time on their hands, leading to resentment. Often just broaching the subject of care with a parent can be fraught with difficulty, particularly if a parent is struggling to maintain their own independence and unwilling to admit they need help. Caring for a parent can add significant financial strain for families, as care of any sort is expensive and local authority budgets are means tested, taking into account all assets.