Most Scottish carers feel lonely and isolated

Lonely woman cropped

​More must be done to support carers as they face a silent epidemic of loneliness

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16th August 2017 by Graham Martin 3 Comments

Most Scottish carers say they feel lonely and socially isolated, according to a new round of research.

Carers Scotland found that eight out of ten (83%) unpaid carers struggle with isolation.

The charity says more must be done to support them.

Greater understanding from friends, colleagues, and the public, as well as more opportunities for breaks and social activities, are all needed to combat a silent epidemic of loneliness affecting those providing support to ill, older or disabled loved ones.

The study’s authors said that the 83% of unpaid carers who said they are lonely are at risk from mental health or physical problems.

Among carers, an unwillingness to talk to others about care responsibilities was a key barrier to inclusion at work, home and in the community. 

More than a third (35%) felt uncomfortable talking to friends about caring, as did those who felt isolated at work due to care responsibilities (34%).

Alongside a lack of understnding from others, carers most frequently ascribed loneliness or social isolation to a lack of time or money to socialise and the difficulty of leaving the house due to caring commitments. 

The research reveals that certain caring circumstances are linked to lonelier care experiences, such as younger carers under 24 years old (89%), carers of disabled children (93%), people who care for 50 hours or more per week (86%) or carers who look after loved ones alongside parenting responsibilities (86%). 

The findings were released as part of the charity’s work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

It aims to start a conversation around loneliness, mobilising the public to combat a prevalent but often unaddressed issue. 

As a founding partner of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Carers UK and Carers Scotland are joining forces with other charities including Age UK and Carers Trust Scotland to shine a spotlight on loneliness in caring, along with ways to break isolation. 

Simon Hodgson, director of Carers Scotland said: "Loneliness is a powerful, sometimes overwhelming, emotion which all-too-many carers experience in silence. Caring touches all our lives yet society and public services often fail to grasp how isolating looking after a loved one can be.

“Caring for someone is one of the most important things we do but without support to have a life outside caring, it can be incredibly lonely worsened by financial pressures, poor understanding from friends and colleagues, and a lack of regular breaks. 

“Given the significant mental and physical health benefits of breaking this isolation, we’re asking everyone to start a conversation about caring.” 

Seema Kennedy, co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which was set up in memory of the murdered Labour MP, said: “There is no quick fix to all the challenges of caring for a loved one but we can all tackle the lack of understanding that can make carers and their families feel alone.  

“Jo Cox strongly believed that we have far more in common than that which divides us. We know the power that the right conversation can have – whether at work, with a friend, with your GP, or with a stranger in a supermarket queue. Working together – individuals, government and as a society – we can reduce loneliness, one conversation at a time.”

17th August 2017 by John

'lack of time or money to socialise and the difficulty of leaving the house due to caring commitments' As a carer I can so identify with this as I have seen my social networks diminish as I spend less and less time with friends due to increasing demands from my caring role as support is reducing due to budget constraints.

18th August 2017 by Lynne Wardle

This chimes very much with our own local research. In East Renfrewshire, in preparation for implementation of the Carers Act, we've formed a Care Collective. Have a look on People told us that they felt there was a stigma associated with talking about the challenges of caring for someone else. This can prevent people from seeking support. We're aiming to change the conversation by acknowledging and appreciating carers and putting them in the lead in reshaping the support available to them. By getting carers together, talking about the tough stuff but also having a little fun together, we're hoping to tackle loneliness and isolation head on.

18th August 2017 by Robert Malcolm Kay

I'm feeling very lonely, now that Carers UK: a charity I have supported for over 20 years, has destroyed its''own credibility by removing the right for carers/members to directly elect trustees, and smashed their own local self-managed branches. Carers Scotland does not exist: everything is managed from London nowadays: everything else is lip-service, and a smokescreen.