The strain caring can put on relationships is highlighted by the situation of Nancy (54), who cares for her 59 year-old husband with Parkinsons. She says:


“We now sleep in separate bedrooms as the medication he is on causes him to have terrible nightmares and he needs to go to the toilet frequently during the night. Although our love has grown stronger over the years, the dynamics of our relationship have changed so drastically that our sex life is now non-existent.”


Almost two-thirds of carers (63%) felt a loss of identity as a direct result of their caring role, whilst an alarming three-quarters of carers had not had a regular break from their caring activities in the past 12 months, including 38% who had not enjoyed a single day off.


The impact of caring on people’s lives is so absolute, it’s little wonder that it goes on to affect relationships, both emotional and physical. The survey reveals this is one of the most difficult challenges of all.


The detrimental effect caring has on people’s finances is also revealed. More than two thirds (67%) are financially worse off, with a quarter (28%) unable to support their family properly.


Their financial situation is likely to be weaker because they are less able to focus on their career, according to 57% of those questioned. The key problems were reduced promotion prospects and being unable to not take up training opportunities.  activities. 40% of carers also found it difficult to get back on the job ladder when returning to the workforce.


When asked how their working life could be made easier, one fifth felt they needed greater support from their boss and 18% more understanding from their colleagues.


When asked which words best described their experience of being a carer, stressful (74%) and demanding (71%) generated the most votes from respondents. A substantial minority of carers find the role rewarding (31%) and one fifth fulfilling (20%).


The survey demonstrates that carng can create a vicious circle of problems which all impact on each other – being demoted or losing a job can lead to financial difficulties which can, in the worst case scenario, lead to losing a home. This in turn can cause high levels of stress, depression and feelings of despair.  When carers say they care 24/7 they mean it .


Many carers are isolated and do not know where to turn to for support. More must be done to make ‘hidden’ carers aware of the support and services that are available today. With the necessary support and advice, carers do not need to feel at their wits end, alone and with no-one to turn to.


Carers Week aims to draw the attention of decision-makers to the issues faced by the UK’s six million carers amid calls that more needs to be done to help change the lives of carers for the better.


In Parliament, Barbara Keeley MP has promoted a motion that calls for an updated and improved National Carers’ Strategy to address specific issues such as, improvements to carers’ benefits, how carers can find suitable services to help them and the person they care for and how they can maintain their own health and well-being. Almost 300 MPs have signed up to the motion.