There are a vast number of people across the UK who rely on the care, health and wellbeing sectors for vital support services. They range from those suffering from a long-term illness to elderly people who are unable to complete domestic tasks like the housework or shopping by themselves. With the UK facing an ageing population and a rising life expectancy, more and more people are now finding themselves acting as informal carers – someone who offer ongoing care and wellbeing services to a loved one free of charge.
WeMa Life’s research at the start of 2018 found that there are estimated to be 7.85 million people in the UK who consider themselves to be an informal carer – representing 15% of all UK adults.
To generate greater societal awareness of the country’s growing collective of informal carers, as well as those who ply their trade in the care sector, between 11 and 17 June the UK will be celebrating Carers Week 2018. This important initiative recognises those individuals who are often overlooked for the support they provide for people unable to look after themselves.
Moreover, while Carers Week serves as a fantastic opportunity to praise the work being done by all manner of carers in the UK, it is also the ideal time to shed some light on the key challenges currently being faced by these people.
The challenges of being an informal carer
WeMa Life’s aforementioned research in January this year revealed that 53% of informal carers say the role has had a significant impact on their emotional state, with 30% falling out with family and friends because of it. Long-term carers can often find themselves susceptible to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can become more problematic once the person they are caring for passes away.
The emotional strain is made more complicated by the financial burden typically placed on people caring for someone else. WeMa Life’s research found that almost two fifths (39%) of informal carers have been prevented from leading the lifestyle they want or previously had because of the costs involved in the role. What’s more, the survey showed that over three-quarters (77%) do not feel they get the right amount of support from the Government to perform their duties.
In light of these challenges, how can Government and industry bodies ensure informal carers receive the support they need, and rightly deserve?
Providing the necessary support structures
The UK Government has been active in its attempts to support the care sector, implementing a dedicated strategy to address many of the issues in this space. However, while there have been positive steps forward, the relief provided has so far been considered disproportional to carers’ needs.
Thankfully, though, a recent Government announcement could provide a much-needed boost. In the lead up to Carers Week, ministers from six government departments have published a care action plan, including a new proposed package of measures that will grant flexible working hours for those caring for sick or ageing relatives.
This serves as a timely and welcomed recognition from the Government of the challenges facing informal carers, and it is important for the sector to see practical measures implemented that build upon these proposals over the coming months.
Connecting care in communities through HealthTech
An obvious challenge facing informal carers is the ability to manage their time efficiently and strike an effective balance between their caring responsibilities and their own lifestyle and employment commitments.
For those informal carers in full-time employment, finding the hours to source, book and manage the necessary services for a loved one can be extremely difficult due to what a time-consuming experience it can be. Traditionally, the process has been marred with poor communication, and the need to navigate multiple sites and platforms in the hope of finding the right service providers.
Importantly, we are now seeing the rise of new platforms that are offering informal carers easy access to these services, ranging from domiciliary care to medical specialists, all in one place. Digital solutions like WeMa Life are naturally positioned to empower the individual, improving the ease and speed with which a person caring for a close family member or friend can access the required services from a third party.
Furthermore, these platforms ensure informal carers can find and compare the health and care services on offer by different providers, as well as book and manage appointments all through a single platform. Simultaneously, they give care, health and wellbeing businesses the ability to improve the visibility, management and delivery of their services to those in need of care.
With Carers Week seeking to build communities that support individuals looking after their loved ones, now is an opportune moment to recognise how new solutions such as digital platforms can empower the UK’s millions of informal carers.
About the Author:
Rohit Patni is the CEO and co-founder of WeMa Life