Whose caring for our carers?

PillTime research reveals unpaid carers are facing increasing pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Non-professional carers are dedicating an additional six hours on average a week to caring during the pandemic.

• More than two thirds (67%) have found it more difficult to take a break from their responsibilities, with 67% spending less time on self-care.

A third of unpaid carers want support with accessing medication for their relatives – which is absolutely vital for their wellbeing.

New research reveals that unpaid carers in the UK are dedicating an additional six hours a week on average to caring for family and friends during the pandemic.

The research commissioned by PillTime ahead of International Carers Rights Day on the 26 November 2020, shows that this is having a detrimental impact on the mental wellbeing (52%), physical health (41%), and finances (41%) of the UK’s unpaid carers.

Worryingly, half of carers (49%) have been unsuccessful in seeking support, with the same number unable to get a carer’s assessment during lockdown – a vital appraisal that can make providing caring easier. More than two thirds (67%) have found it harder to take a break from their caring responsibilities and are spending less time on themselves as a result.

Additional responsibilities that come with looking after a friend or relative are also causing concern. A third of carers (32%) would like more support with getting medication and prescriptions to those they care for – a huge task under the current restrictions.

Not only does the issue affect the prescription taker, but it also impacts the NHS and the economy. PillTime has found that 50% of UK patients do not take their medications as prescribed, estimating to cost the NHS more than £2.5bn a year, with wasted medication accounting for £300m lost.

NHS Digital UK estimates that there are 6.5 million people in the UK taking more than five medications each day, making managing multiple prescriptions and over the counter more stressful and complicated.

Responding to the latest findings, Dr Hilary Jones GP and Medical broadcaster said: “This year hasn’t been an easy one for anyone – and this is especially true for our unpaid carers. As well as coping with the huge emotional and often financial burden of caring for friends and relatives, too many of our unpaid carers are struggling to access the vital support that they need. As a nation we need to recognise the increasing burden that unpaid carers are currently facing and take urgent steps to address them.”

Tim Morgan, Superintendent Pharmacist at PillTime, added: “It’s really worrying to learn that carers aren’t getting the time they need for themselves and this is impacting their mental and physical wellbeing. There are already so many pressures on unpaid carers, one of those is ensuring their loved ones get the right medication at the right time. We know that our products can help carers stay on top of the day-to-day practicalities of administering medication, which will go some way towards alleviating pressures and concerns for many.”