BY 2017, there will be more elderly people needing care than adult children available to provide it, a think-tank has predicted.
And the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which compiled the report, is urging the public and the Government to take the problem of the ‘generation strain’ seriously.
A spokesman for the IPPR said: “Most care for older people is not provided by the state or private agencies but by family members, at an estimated value of £55 billion annually.
“However, as the baby-boomer generation ages, a growing ‘family care gap’ will develop as the number of older people in need of care outstrips the number of adult children able to provide it.”
The report does not place blame on the children of those who need care.
Conversely, it acknowledges that in an increasingly mobile society, people may live too far apart to provide an effective family network, and many of those with aging parents are already working full time and cannot provide constant care.
Three local carers, meanwhile, have spoken to the Leader about their concerns.
Ann, who has requested her surname be withheld, found herself at breaking point while caring for her father and an uncle and aunt in Sunderland.
The 50-year-old from Connah’s Quay said: “It was a three or four-hour trip. My father was blind and suffering with dementia, while my aunt and uncle also had other needs as they are both profoundly deaf.
“I’d go there as often as I could – and still do – but I’m also caring for a close relative at home and it was getting too much.”
Ann’s father was also reluctant to leave the area where he’d spent most of his life, but eventually reached the point where his dementia meant he no longer knew where he was.
Ann said: “We moved him down here and he’s now in a dementia care unit in Wrexham.
“Between that and what was happening at home, I had visited my aunt and uncle less frequently. I’m an only child and they had no children themselves, which made me feel tremendously guilty, but I just couldn’t do any more.
“It was so difficult to back away. I still feel guilty now.”
Hazel Edwards, 56, of Acton in Wrexham, is her father’s sole carer.
She said: “My father lives alone in Rhyl and because of his situation, I am often the only person he sees all week.
“He lives the best part of an hour away, and I have my own health issues.
“It’s a struggle sometimes. He’d always been healthy, but in the last two years his memory has declined, and after seeing a specialist he was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia.
“He used to go to the pub, but now he’ll get lost on his way there.”
Mrs Edwards, is currently in remission with multiple sclerosis and has, in the past, been wheelchair-bound. She also suffered a stroke, which left her temporarily and partially paralysed. She said: “I’m in this strange situation where I’m actually quite glad I’m ill because it means I have the time to go and see him. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had a job. It would be impossible.
“I’m in a situation where he’s my first priority, my only priority really because my children have grown up and my husband can take care of himself.”
Mrs Edwards’ father not only needs help tending the house he lives in, but also buying food, paying his bills and many aspects of his life.
For Mrs Edwards, whose health issues leave her tired, it is an exhausting process.
She said: “We used to have some help. He used to go to a club for older people once a week. He wasn’t sure about going at first, but he could go when I wasn’t in Rhyl, and it was a huge weight off my mind.
“I could see that he started to enjoy it and his mood lifted. But due to demand, people are only able to go for a block of 12 weeks, so that’s stopped now.”
Mrs Edwards has been considering moving closer to her father as he has refused to leave Rhyl, but is waiting until her husband retires because he works shifts.
She also says no suitable property has come on to the market.
She said: “I’m very aware that a relapse is possible and I need somewhere that can be accessed by wheelchair.
“The whole thing scares me. I’m afraid if I get ill there will be no one to look after my father, and I know that, when I reach 80, there might not be anyone there for me. My children are devoted, but they’ve all moved out of the area.”
Elaine Lambert, 39, of Connah’s Quay, pointed out that when transport is an issue, providing care can even be a strain closer to home.
She said: “My mother went into hospital and once she was well enough, she came home to live with me for three months. She’s lived on and off with me for about four years.
“Then my father became ill with diabetes too.
“At the time my children were eight and 11 and it was hard work, but it had to be done. You never relax.”
Although Mrs Lambert’s parents had a house only a few miles away, she didn’t drive, so even when her parents returned home, visiting them took its toll.
She said: “They are dependent for lots of things and I was visiting them three or four times a day.
“It could be something serious or it could be a call because mum had pressed a button on the TV remote and it wasn’t working any more.
“You live in fear of the phone going after 9pm because then you know something is wrong.”
Mrs Lambert eventually arranged for her parents to move into a property across the street.
She said: “I wouldn’t expect anyone else to look after them and if I lived my life over I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I can’t imagine how hard it must be for people whose parents live far away.”
One thing all three carers shared was a desire for more information about available help.
Mrs Edwards said: “I know there’s help out there, but finding it is difficult.”
Ann, for her part, said without NEWCIS, (North East Wales Carers Information Service) in Flintshire, she would not have known where to turn. “I would have been lost,” she said.
All three carers were concerned that government and council cuts to day-centres and similar facilities would only ma ke the issue worse further down the line.
l Are you dealing with the ‘generation strain’? Share your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org