Nearly half of adults who currently provide care for a family member say a main reason for doing so is guilt, research reveals.
A study by Prestige Nursing + Care has found 46% of unpaid carers say guilt is a factor in their decision to provide care and 75% of adults would feel guilty if they couldn’t provide care for a family member.
The national homecare provider also learnt 31% of adults say unpaid care is provided within the family because they believe they cannot afford to pay for professional care.
The findings come as the number of older people requiring unpaid care is expected to rise by more than one million by 2035, from 2.2 million in 2015 to 3.5 million.
The majority (62%) of adults surveyed would prefer to be cared for by a family member in the comfort of their own home if the need arose, Prestige found.
While three quarters of adults said they would feel guilty if they were unable to provide care for a member of their family, 73% said would feel guilty if they themselves needed care and a family member had to provide it.
Half of people who are currently receiving care feel their choice of care services was compromised by guilt or emotional distress, with nearly a quarter (24%) reporting they experienced tension and resentment within their family when decisions were made.
Almost one in three (30%) felt like a burden during the care decision-making process, Prestige’s research revealed.
Further findings from the study included two in five (42%) people who expect to need care within the next ten years would be happy if a family member refused to provide care and left them needing professional help.
One in three (32%) would be relieved to be cared for by someone with professional training and skills, provided this was in the home environment, with 42% of those surveyed happy to be supported by a carer at home.
Just 20% of people would opt for sheltered accommodation or retirement housing, and 6% would prefer to move into a residential care home.
‘The sense of guilt and obligation surrounding how to provide care for a loved one, compounded with a complicated system and lack of saving, means that many people end up as unpaid carers, even when this may not necessarily be the most suitable type of care which is required,’ said Prestige’s managing director Jonathan Bruce.
‘We now see over two million carers aged over 65, many with their own health concerns, who feel there is little option but to provide care themselves.
‘This is not a sustainable or fair model for the future of caring for many of the most vulnerable people in our society.’
Prestige’s research also showed nearly half (48%) of people in care or with a close family member in care feel their choice was handicapped by a lack of understanding about their care options.
Among those who expect to need care either for themselves or a close family member within the next ten years, only one in three (33%) say they would know how to arrange care support.
Almost a quarter of adults (25%) were not aware of financial support available, such as the Carer’s Allowance – which could reduce some of the pressures on informal carers – and 57% did not know how much the allowance was worth (£62.10 per week).
Just 16% who have been through the process of finding care said they planned it in advance and found it very straightforward.
‘As more people require care in the years to come we need to consider how this demand will be met,’ Jonathan Bruce continued.
‘The crushing reality is that more carers are needed to tackle this demand but an-ever growing reliance on unpaid carers and family members is not a sustainable answer and even causes economic damage to society.
‘We need to recruit more carers to meet demand from an ageing population to avoid a huge shortfall in future.
‘The current social care model is patently broken – home care and residential care both have a crucial role to play in reducing the burden on the NHS but greater awareness about accessing, and then providing, this care is clearly required. And this must involve a more proactive discussion with the person receiving the care, and their family.’