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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Alzheimer's carers forced to quit jobs
Elderly person with carer
Carers often feel 'depressed' and 'frustrated'
More carers of Alzheimer's disease sufferers have to give up work in the UK than other countries, a survey has shown.

Forty per cent of UK carers have to give up work to care for their relatives, compared to 27% in Australia, 18% in Spain, 9% in Italy and 7% in France.

Around 700,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

The survey of 740 carers included 91 carers from the UK.

This research confirms the difficulties of getting a diagnosis and appropriate support and information

Clive Evers, Alzheimer's Society<
Two thirds of UK carers looked after their relative seven days a week, and on average they had been doing so for five years.

Most described caring for a relative with Alzheimer's disease as demanding, tiring, frustrating and depressing.

Eighty-five per cent said they either had no social life, or it had been severely curtailed.

Two thirds said they could not take holidays or have time off.

Just over half of carers in the UK are spouses, and a third children. The majority are women.

A third of carers surveyed were aged between 51 and 60. The average age of the person with Alzheimer's disease receiving care was 77.

Access to medication

On average, it was 12 months from relatives noticing the first indications there was something wrong until a definite diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

But for 8% it was 49 to 96 months, and for 3% it was over eight years.

The survey, which was carried out by Taylor Nelson Sofres, on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Ltd and Eisai Ltd, who market the Alzheimer's disease drug Aricept, found UK patients were least likely to be prescribed medication for Alzheimer's.

Colin and Sarah Skillet (c Clew communications)
Sandra Skillet says her husband Colin is much better on medication
Aricept (donepezil), along with Exelon (rivastigmine) and Reminyl (galantamine) have been shown to slow the progress of Alzheimer's, and were approved for use in the NHS at the beginning of 2001.

But the survey found only 21% of the UK patients were receiving such drugs, compared to 56% in Spain, 73% in Italy and 77% in France.

Carers of patients taking the drugs were less likely to have had to give up their jobs.

Sandra Skillett, full-time carer for her husband, who has Alzheimer's, said: "Colin is undoubtedly better on medication. He is not so forgetful and is able to be much more independent.

"For example, I am able to go out for the day and leave him to get on with the garden. This is a lifeline to me."

Unpaid carers

Dr David Wilkinson, consultant old age psychiatrist and director of the Memory Assessment and Research Centre, Moorgreen Hospital, Southampton, said: "Early diagnosis is critically important as it means that people with Alzheimer's disease can then get the treatment they need at an early stage when they stand to benefit most."

Clive Evers, director of Information and education at the Alzheimer's Society said: "This research confirms the difficulties of getting a diagnosis and appropriate support and information.

"Unpaid carers deliver most of the care to people with dementia in the UK. With one in five people over 80 having Alzheimer's or another form of dementia most carers are partners or spouses and many are elderly and frail themselves.

"An Alzheimer's Society survey of nearly 800 carers, undertaken in 2001, revealed that 40% of carers had less than an hour a day to themselves."

Harriet Millward, deputy chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "Caring for someone with Alzheimer┐s can be tiring, stressful, and demanding.

"Many carers who are working have to give up their jobs to provide the amount of help needed by a patient.

"Younger carers who give up work are also at risk of further financial disadvantage, as their time out of the labour force while caring, makes them less attractive to employers."

See also:

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