31 January 2009
This research brief summarises the key findings and implications for local authorities in the UK engaged in developing, planning and delivering services to support older carers.
The key points of the brief are:
*Older carers vary enormously in their age and socioeconomic profile, and in their experience of caring, depending on whom they provide care for and the volume of care provided.
*Spousal carers are typically older, poorer, provide a larger volume of care and experience poorer outcomes than, for example, older carers providing care for a parent.
*Older carers providing moderate to heavy volumes of care (20+ hours per week) report a significantly lower quality of life than comparable non-carers.
*Far more than any other characteristic or impairment, it is the memory functioning of the person receiving care that is most associated with variations in the quality of life of older carers. This suggests that caring for someone with poor memory functioning has a significant effect on the quality of life of an older carer.
*Various factors were found to be associated with variations in the quality of life of older carers. In particular, although few differences in the health of older carers compared to non-carers were found, variations in health status appear to have a stronger association with quality of life than any other factor, underlining the importance of health services to supporting older carers.
*Besides health status, financial hardship and access to medical services were strongly associated with variations in quality of life for older carers.
*Comparing the lives of carers and non-carers, it was found that providers of moderate to heavy care have more difficulty accessing health services and local shops.
*Older carers are more likely than non-carers to wish that they could go to the cinema more often, suggesting that caring responsibilities do constrain aspirations to participate in leisure activities.
Spousal carers are less likely to have holidayed in the UK or abroad than non-carers.
ILC-UK is extremely grateful to the National Centre for Social Research for undertaking the analysis upon which the brief is based, and the Nuffield Foundation for funding the original analysis.