Over half of people caring for people with cancer do not receive any support from health and social care professionals, finds a study by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The study of 6487 cancer carers, performed by YouGov, found that 55% did not receive any help, despite a 31% increase in the number of people caring for those with cancer in the last five years. It is estimated that there are as many as 1,416,000 cancer carers currently in the UK, compared with 1,080,000 in 2011. The survey also found that 20% of those surveyed reported that they spend more than 35 hours a week, the same as a full time job, caring for someone with cancer.
“As the number of people being diagnosed with cancer continues to rise, we will see even more people having to care for their friends and family, so we urgently need to ensure the right support is in place for them,’ said Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support.
‘Many cancer carers have to do healthcare tasks they’re not trained to do, such as administering medicine, on top of practical tasks such as making trips to hospital, and providing emotional support. This is often on top of working and looking after their children. At the same time, they are doing their best to remain positive and hold things together, often compromising their own health.'
According to the study, carers spend an average of 17.5 hours a week looking after someone with cancer, an increase of 2.5 hours compared to 2011. The survey also found that cancer carers as young as 17 to people in their 80s are having to take on more responsibility for the person they care for, with an increase in the types of support they provide.
The most common tasks that carers assist cancer patients with include giving medication and changing dressings, taking care of finances, going to the toilet, and eating.
‘One of the reasons carers don’t get support is because they don’t know it’s available. In fact, many don’t consider themselves to be carers because they’re acting out of kindness and love,’ added Ms Woodard. ‘We simply can’t expect carers to keep bearing the brunt so we need to support health and social care professionals to let carers know that there is help available which they’re entitled to.’
As part of its carers campaign, Macmillan is urging the government to recognise the needs of cancer carers in a new carers strategy for England, due to be published later this year and set out a plan of how carers will be able to get the help and support they need.