New figures by Age UK show that an army of older carers is providing 23m hours of unpaid care a week, saving the health and care system £23bn a year.
The research found that one in three (30 per cent) people aged 80 and over are providing 1.2 bn hours of care a year, with the majority looking after a partner. A figure that has rocketed by nearly a quarter (23 per cent) to since 2010.
The charity said the hours of caring is taking its toll on the carers own health and wellbeing, with 7 out of 10 (71 per cent ) suffering long-standing health problems of their own and nearly 1 in 2 (46 per cent) reporting difficulty with moving about at home, walking or lifting, carrying or moving objects.
Len, 84, a 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.’
The charity said 24% are providing more than 35 hours a week while a further 13% are caring for more than 20 hours a week, and the charity estimates that this will rise to 4.6m people by 2030.
Meanwhile, the total number of carers aged 65 and over who are providing informal care for another person has risen from 2.7m to 3.3m 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 £23bn 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 hard for all their lives which can sometimes result in them having to sell the family home.
‘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.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We recognise the selfless contribution that carers make for their loved ones.
‘We are determined to find a long-term solution to the challenges in social care to make sure every person is treated with dignity and offered the security they deserve and will outline next steps shortly.’
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