Help for carers who need a break over Christmas and New Year

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A massive two thirds of carers didn’t get a break this Christmas, a new survey has revealed.

Disability charity Vitalise, who carried out the research, found out that four out of 10 carers have not had any time off from caring in past year.

Over two thirds (69 per cent) of carers did not get a break from caring this Christmas and half have never had a break over the Christmas period.

Worse, an astonishing 39 per cent of carers have not taken a single day off from caring in the last year.

The study painted a stark picture of the emotional and physical strain on carers who fail to take breaks from their caring duties.

More than 80 per cent said they put the health of the loved one they care for before of their own and almost 60 per cent said a lack of time away from caring led them to feelings of depression. Sixty per cent said long periods without a break resulted in their getting angry at the person they care for.

In contrast, when asked about the beneficial effects of respite, nearly half (46 per cent) of all carers surveyed said it made them feel more able to cope and over a third said they felt happier and healthier. However, over a fifth (21 per cent) said that afterwards they felt guilty that they had left a loved one in order to take time off.

An estimated 6.5 million people - one in eight of the adult population - act as unpaid carers for older, ill or disabled loved ones in the UK.

Carers UK estimates that carers save the UK economy 119 billion each year - an average of £18,473 per carer.

People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled. 625,000 people suffer mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring.

In response to the survey’s findings, Vitalise, which provides essential short breaks for people with disabilities and carers, is calling for urgent action to address the issue of quality in respite care.

Vitalise will fully fund 50 week-long breaks in 2014 for people with disabilities and carers who have not been able to take any respite in the past year from its Joan Brander Memorial Fund, which was set up in memory of the charity’s founder.

Vitalise’s three UK respite break centres remain open over the Christmas and New Year period to provide an inclusive Christmas experience for people with disabilities to help those who might otherwise feel isolated or excluded from the festive celebrations, and to provide relief for their carers and families at a particularly stressful time of year.

Vitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said: “This survey paints quite a shocking picture of the reality of life today for the millions of unpaid family carers in the UK. What’s depressing is that it hasn’t revealed anything Vitalise hasn’t known for some time.

“Many carers don’t even know they are carers, so they are not claiming the support that’s available to them and they are at dire risk of burning out as a result. Even the carers who know they are entitled to support are not taking breaks because they are terrified of what might happen to their loved ones if they do. They simply have no confidence in the quality or suitability of the respite care on offer.”

Vitalise provides essential short breaks in a holiday environment for people with disabilities – including Alzheimer’s and dementia - and carers at three accessible UK centres, with 24-hour nursing care on-call, personal support and a range of accessible excursions, activities and entertainment.

People with disabilities and carers wanting more advice and information about Vitalise breaks can call 0303 303 0145, email or visit