Carers Likely To Experience Depression After Giving Up Caregiving
When an individual goes into residential care the focus often lies solely with them. Most people involved are concerned only with the level of care available within the residential home and the comfort and support offered to them during their time there. Likewise, when a dependent person dies, the attention is very much on arranging the funeral and taking care of financial matters.
In a stark contrast, their carers, the people who looked after these individuals prior to their death or move to residential care, are largely forgotten. However, according to a report published by the International Longevity Centre, this can often lead to depression and isolation amongst ex-carers, and diminished quality of life in older age.
The International Longevity Centre is a leading independent think tank, addressing key issues regarding longevity and demographic change. Their report provides valuable insight into the very real problems that carers face once their loved one has passed away, or moved into a residential home.
The Results of the Report
The report is one of two carried out in conjunction with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London. The research is part of a larger investigation, exploring the mental wellbeing of older people in the UK; and addresses many issues, including loneliness amongst the elderly, the impact of social networks and how caregiving effects emotional health.
In the first report, it was identified that in the 70-79 age group nearly a quarter of men and over a third of women reported feeling lonely. These figures rose alarmingly in those aged 80 or over; with 36% of men experiencing loneliness, and over half of all women. It also highlighted that the most socially isolated older people experience less happiness and satisfaction in life than those who were better connected socially.
The second report identified that there were close to 1.3 million carers in the UK over the age of 65. It also recognised that long term caregiving was closely linked to decreased quality of life and satisfaction for carers. Giving up caregiving also often resulted in depression amongst both males and females.
Professor Andrew Steptoe from UCL states that “loneliness and social isolation are problems confronting many people as they grow older.” He also adds that “these new studies show the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on emotional wellbeing, and that the many informal carers in the community are at particular risk.”
Providing Better Support for Ex-Carers
Both reports, when examined in combination, reveal that the isolation experienced after giving up care contributed significantly to feelings of negativity, sadness and loneliness; indicating the importance of providing support and social interaction for carers after their loved ones have died, or moved into residential care.
Helen Creighton, from ILC-UK, said “Carers give so much of their time to helping someone else, and quite rightly, the focus is often on the person who is in need of care. However, when their caregiving responsibilities end, it is essential carers are not just abandoned.’ She adds that ‘local authorities need to do more to help ex-carers make connections in their community and may want to consider setting up forums where ex-carers can come together to support one another.”
Professor Andrew Steptoe from University College London said: “Loneliness and social isolation are problems confronting many people as they grow older. Our previous research with the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing has shown how these problems affect healthy biological function and even survival. These new studies show the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on emotional wellbeing, and that the many informal carers in the community are at particular risk.”