The role of carer is one that’s increasingly popular in the UK. According to research jointly undertaken by Carers UK and the Centre for Care at the University of Sheffield, around 12,000 people in the UK start unpaid work as carers every day.
That amounts to around 4.3 million people in the UK caring for a friend or relative ever year. Women, according to the research, are slightly more likely to take up this kind of work, at 2.3 million to 2 million.
It’s worth wondering what factors are driving this trend, and whether this direction is sustainable over the long term.
The Ageing Population
The population of the UK is getting older. The 2021 census showed that the median age in England and Wales has risen by a year since 2011, from 39 to 40. This means substantially more older people, including more than half a million people aged 90 or older.
As we age, we’re more inclined to struggle with day-to-day tasks. Our younger relatives might at some point be forced to choose between spending time and energy caring for us, or paying for professional help. Given that many Brits lack the funding or inclination to pursue the second option, it’s natural that we see an uptick in people pursuing the first.
Emotional and Financial Impact
Working as a carer can be very rewarding, but it can also be very demanding. In some cases, you might find yourself on duty throughout the day and night, which might mean giving up some of your leisure time. The impact on your sleep pattern might also be detrimental.
Then there are the financial problems to contend with. By taking up unpaid work as a carer, you might be giving up the chance to earn money with a full-time career. Faced with this situation, you might consider one of several options. You might allow your older relative to downsize to a smaller property – perhaps one without a set of stairs. An equity release mortgage represents a viable alternative – and one that doesn’t require a removal van.
Health Conditions and Disabilities
Of course, old age is only part of the challenge. Many Brits suffer from long-term health conditions and disabilities, which can lead them to require continuous care and support. These include chronic illnesses, like multiple sclerosis, cognitive impairments like dementia, and mobility-impacting disabilities.
In some cases, it might be that the relationship between carer and cared-for is not offspring-parent, but the other way round. In any case, there are many learning resources available, which would-be carers would be advised to take advantage of. By equipping yourself with the right skills and knowledge, you’ll be able to perform the job competently and support your loved one.