Unpaid carers provide much of the day to day care for people with long-term illnesses. Dementia is a common problem and the condition can present particular challenges for those nearest to them. This can include challenging behaviour and confusion, as well as a range of other physical and mental health problems.
The progression of dementia can be slow and uncertain, with caring responsibilities which can extend over many years. Carers tend to have poorer levels of physical and mental health than those without caring responsibilities. One study indicated that a third of dementia carers experienced clinical depression or anxiety.
There is some evidence that when carers are well supported, they provide better care to the person they care for and report better outcomes themselves. But carers may not seek the support they need. An earlier review found that women taking on heavy carer responsibilities made less use of general practitioner services than expected.
While there are new responsibilities for local authorities and for health professionals to identify the needs of carers, it is not always easy to provide the support they need.