Hidden Carers

Hidden Carers

Hidden Carers

Hidden Carers

Synopsis

Providing support services for carers (caregivers) has long been a key social policy objective. Such support through service intervention has been found to reduce carers' stress levels, improve the quality of their lives, and prevent the breakdown of care. Recently, developing support services for carers has gained increased impetus as a result of concern over the costs of long term care and the Scottish Parliament's commitment to carers' involvement in the design and delivery of services. Many carers do not receive support services even though care giving is known to be stressful. These 'hidden' or unsupported carers are invisible to providers of health and social care services. This volume focuses on the lives and experiences of hidden carers. It considers the complex relationship between carers and service providers from the carers' perspective. It asks why some carers provide high levels of care without support from service providers and what factors may lead to their acceptance of support. In common with other titles in this series, Hidden Carers presents a variety of perspectives and approaches with which to consider the key issues. It is written at a level that will stimulate those wrestling with these themes from a professional perspective as well as providing essential reading for those studying health and social policy.

Excerpt

Carers provide the majority of care for people living in the community. the care they provide is unpaid. They are defined by the 2001 Scottish census as being individuals who look after, or give any help or support to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental ill health or disability or problems related to old age (Scotland’s Census Results Online [SCROL]). Current estimates put the number of carers in Britain at 5.2 million, of whom approximately 1.2 million are caring for older people (Maher and Green, 2002). in Scotland, estimates from the 2001 census put the numbers of carers at 481,579. of these, 175,969 (37%) are reported to provide more than 20 hours of care a week, and 24% provide more than 50 hours of care (www.scrol.gov.uk). Many of these carers are unknown to and unsupported by service providers and because of this they remain hidden or invisible (Eley, 2003; Scottish Executive, 2006a).

The purpose of this book is to increase our knowledge and understanding of why, when caregiving is portrayed as being stressful, these hidden carers continue to provide care without support from service providers. the book draws on a qualitative longitudinal study of carers of older people who provided care for 20 hours a week or more, despite having no support from formal services. While not all older people require care, there is little doubt that it is among the older population that the greatest need for care exists. As a group, older people are the main users of health and social care services (Tinker, 1997; McDonald, 2004). the total Scottish population is currently 4.9 million, of which older people comprise one fifth. This means that there are approximately one million older people living in Scotland (www.scrol. gov.uk).

Carers who provide care for 20 hours a week or more are regarded as being at the ‘heavy end’ of caring (Parker, 1990). This assumes that they are the most involved carers, providing both personal and physical care, resulting in high levels of stress and in most need of support services. Gaining access to these hidden carers was a difficult and demanding process but was eventually achieved with help from a range of voluntary organisations and individuals working with local community groups. in total 41 carers were approached, of whom 26 agreed to participate in the study. Carers were interviewed three times over a period of 28 months. Quantitative data were also gathered . . .

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