Around 110,000 people in the UK are caring for a parent with cancer, which could include everything from taking care of finances to washing and dressing them, while also looking after their own children, according to a new report launched today by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The growing strain on cancer carers reveals that almost 1 in 10 cancer carers are “sandwich caring.”
Most of them (89%) are also juggling a job as well as caring for someone with cancer.
The report, based on research commissioned from YouGov, shows that the majority (70%) of all cancer carers are aged 45 or over.
In 2011, over half (57%) were in this age group.
The overall number of cancer carers has risen by nearly third (31%) to almost 1.5 million 4 in the last five years.
Macmillan warns of the debilitating effect caring for someone with cancer can have on a person’s life.
Up to 7 in 10 (70%) of all cancer carers experience mental health problems as a result of caring, including stress, anxiety and depression.
Caring is also having a greater impact on the physical health of those who care such as exhaustion and insomnia.
Additionally, almost one in three carers (30%) say their income or household finances are affected and four in 10 (43%) of those currently in employment report that caring affects their working lives.
While carers are carrying out more complex tasks and putting in more hours of care than ever before, worryingly more than half (55%) are not getting any additional support - a figure that has not improved from 2011.
Many do not see themselves as carers or do not know what support is available.
This means they can remain hidden from health and social care professionals who are unaware they are struggling.
Macmillan provides a range of information for carers through its website, information resources and telephone helpline which is staffed by cancer specialists who offer practical, medical, emotional and financial support.
The charity is urging cancer carers to get in touch to ensure no one has to cope alone.
The charity relies on fundraising and voluntary donations for 99% of its income, to fund its vital services.
Events such as Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on 30th September this year are key to ensuring Macmillan can carry on supporting carers and people affected by cancer.
Nikki Crossley, 41, from Kent, discovered she was pregnant with her second child a month after she found out her mum’s breast cancer had spread to her brain in 2014.
She said “Becoming my mum’s carer just kind of happened. Before I knew it I was in charge of her medication, her doctor’s appointments, cooking her meals, paying her bills, helping her dress and get to the toilet. Recently she became confused after a bladder infection and I was up half the night trying to settle her, then I still had to get up early to sort the kids out and head to work myself, exhausted.
“I feel guilty that I’m not able to put my children first. It’s upsetting to realise I’ve not been able to do the same things with my 16 month old son as I did with his older sister. I feel like I’m constantly being pulled in two different directions. It’s overwhelming at times and sometimes I wonder if I do any of it well – but I do the best I can.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says “It’s saddening to hear of the growing strain on cancer carers. In extreme cases a person may have to dress, feed and take their parent to the toilet whilst also dealing with the school run, and a full-time job. Too often, this “sandwich generation” of carers find themselves pulled in every direction by a physically and emotionally draining juggling act that can cause their finances to come under pressure, their working lives to suffer and their own health to bear the brunt.
“It’s not just “sandwich carers” that are facing this uphill battle. Carers across the UK, looking after their mothers, sisters, brothers or friends, are carrying out more caring tasks and for longer. Many are doing it with a real sense of pride and privilege but this doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. For those of you caring for someone affected by cancer, we know it’s getting tougher. We also know you don’t always have the time, or energy, to seek help. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get whatever support you need. From our information centres and mobile information bus, to our support line and online community, Macmillan is here for you.
“But we can’t do it alone. It’s not too late to hold a coffee morning or to find a local World’s Biggest Coffee Morning to attend this year. Whether it’s at home, school or work, every cup of coffee and slice of cake shared helps us ensure carers and people affected by cancer don’t face it alone.”
Source: Macmillan Cancer Support