In this country, care for older people rests mostly on the backs of family carers. 70% of carers are supporting someone aged over 65. Half of these will live with the person and the majority are of working age, mostly in their 50s suggesting that they are the children of the people they are caring for. They are a hugely under appreciated over exploited resource.
I think the way that family carers are treated are appalling; their efforts taken for granted, the expectation that they will undertake any and all tasks from giving injections to changing incontinence pads all without the help and training given to paid carers, and that they will do all this for a paltry amount of money £59.75 a week IF they even qualify for it.
Frankly without them the health and social care system would collapse completely – but here’s the thing. 1 in 5 women born in the 1960s don’t have any children and ONS statistics predicts this will rise to 1 in 4 for women like myself born in the 1970s (I did try to look for statistics for people as opposed to women born in these eras but naturally in a sexist world, childlessness is seen as a women’s issue not a peoples issue)
yesterday I was the redefining ageing conference put on by Age Uk London. It was a very good event (more on this in a later blog) but I was struck by how there was no reference at all to the large numbers of people who will age without children. I have spent 20 years working in the field of ageing and have never heard it mentioned. Instead speakers talk of children and grandchildren using anecdotes about grandchildrens funny comments to connect with the audience, because everyone has children or grandchildren don’t they?
Now this isn’t to have a go at people for doing this. I laughed along with other people and its wonderful to hear people have such great familial relationships and of course more people have children than don’t, but the childless or child free depending how they define themselves are going to be a big cohort in 20 years time. Why is this NEVER talked about?? why at conferences on ageing are people still continuing to assume that people will have families to support them, when its likely that 20-25% of them will not. Ignoring this issue seems to me utterly bizarre. The potential impact on services is huge; all the tasks family carers routinely carry out unnoticed and unappreciated by the state such as making appointments, running mum or dad to the hospital, making sure they take their medication, getting the shopping in, cooking meals and making older people still feel connected to the world, who will do this for me and for my friends also without children?
I didn’t choose not to have children but that doesn’t matter; what matters is that for me and tens of thousands like me, the state cannot rely on our children to look after us when we get old. There will be more of us because we’ll live a long time. where is the forecasting on this issue? has anyone at DH even thought about it?? and why the bloody hell do we NEVER talk about it??