Hampshire carers’ mental health is suffering during the pandemic, survey reveals

Those caring for relatives and family members at home have been telling us their experiences of caring during Covid-19. 82% have said that it has had a negative impact on their mental health, and more mental health support is needed for the future.
lady with walking stick

Within a week of launching our survey of unpaid carers (those caring for loved ones or family members) we are being told about issues faced, including isolation, lack of support and mental health issues for both themselves and the person they are caring for.

Having Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss, my husband has been cared for at home by myself. Having to isolate for five months, the lack of stimulation has caused him to deteriorate considerably and his mood is now very low, unmotivated and his cognitive abilities are much worse.

The initial results of our survey reveal common issues facing carers across the county, although many have said online meetings and virtual contact has been a life saver throughout lockdown, as a vital piece of human contact.

So far in our survey of unpaid carers:

  • 65% said the number of hours spent caring has increased during Covid 19 pandemic
  • 79% were unable to access regular breaks from their caring responsibilities
  • 61% said caring during the pandemic had a negative impact on their physical health
  • 82% said caring during the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health
  • 48% said caring during the pandemic had a negative impact on the family’s wellbeing
  • 81% could not access any respite services during the pandemic
  • 66% said family and friends had been helpful or very helpful at offering support during the pandemic
I was put in touch with a carers group via Zoom which has helped in as much as there are many people like me out there all on their own, struggling. This group has been invaluable. They not only hear, but they listen.

We are running our survey until mid-November so there is still plenty of time to complete it and we really want to hear from as many unpaid carers as possible. More than 50 people told us their story in the first week, we want to hear from everyone else so we can raise awareness of the issues unpaid carers are facing.

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The lack of being able to take my husband out to go places has had a bad effect on his mental health which has made my caring harder. He used to love to go to the seaside but that was not allowed and when it was, it was hard to find toilets open so we stayed home and he shut down. He had two stays in hospital and was upset with me, scared he would get it and never see me again. He is now hard to leave.

What unpaid carers told us they want to see for the future:

Unpaid carers have also been telling us what they want to see improve for the future, with a real emphasis on re-opening services which offer some respite and help, rather than just a blanket closure which has put pressure on everyone.

The pandemic was seen as a reason to stop services rather than consider what could be provided or different approaches. This is a long-term challenge needing a positive “can do” approach and creative solutions to keep services running.

Mental health support and help with isolation was also a big request to help unpaid carers and their families cope with any future lockdown issues that might arise over the winter months, with an emphasis on more online help, and more flexibility for visiting those who are isolated.

Social groups for dementia sufferers should be started again with social distancing, it’s quite feasible with spacing of chairs, wearing masks and activities without direct contact. NHS services should stop using Covid as an excuse to stop services and look for ways to open again.

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