Page last updated at 05:40 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 06:40 UK

Silent health suffering of carers

Man touching the arm of an elderly woman
The stress of caring for a loved one can lead to health problems

Carers are suffering health problems in silence because they do not have the time to see a doctor, a new survey has found.

Published to mark Carers' Week, the survey suggests those in that role may be putting their own health at risk by ignoring symptoms.

The survey also highlights the effect that caring can have on the physical and emotional wellbeing of carers.

More than 340,000 people in Wales are thought to be carers, said the charity.

Among the survey's findings were that 79% of carers in Wales say their health had deteriorated due to their responsibilities and 89% said they had been unable to cope with their day to day caring duties due to exhaustion, anxiety or fatigue.

The survey also found that 41% frequently cover up health problems and a further 20% say they constantly hide their illness.

More than half of those questioned said health problems had affected their ability to care.

It's a 24-hr a day job, in the end you mistreat yourself because you are so focussed on your partner
Thomas Reynolds, who cares for his wife

Thomas Reynolds, 72, from Pontypool has been looking after his wife Evelyn for 15 years.

She suffers from a combination of illnesses, rheumatism and arthritis and he must help her with dressing, washing and getting her around.

"It's a stressful life, you cannot go out on your own," he said.

"Everything I do I have to allow 30 minutes more, as I have to get my wife ready too.

"I had a mini stroke recently, and my doctor said it was a direct result of stress. It's a 24-hr a day job. In the end you mistreat yourself because you are so focussed on your partner."

Mother-of-two Susan Jones from Swansea, developed high blood pressure while looking after her husband Wyn who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer four years ago.

She also looked after her sons Alun and Rhys, who were nine and 11 at the time because many of her family were too ill to help her.

With the right support, caring shouldn't have to be a demoralising and stressful experience
Paul Matz, Carers Week manager

"You just get on with it, you find this adrenalin that takes over and you do it," she said.

"Lack of sleep was a big factor. I would be up at night looking after Wyn, sometimes holding his sides while he was being sick.

"Then I had to get carry on in the day, get the boys ready for school, wait for the nurse, look after Wyn."

Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said it offered a range of services to help the family and friends of those affected by cancer including respite schemes.

Paul Matz, Carers Week manager said he was not surprised by the findings of the survey and called on health professionals to recognise the needs of people who are caring for others.

"With the right support, caring shouldn't have to be a demoralising and stressful experience," he said.

"It can be rewarding and fulfilling - but only if carers themselves are feeling mentally and physically well."




SEE ALSO
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In Pictures: Portrait of a carer
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Courage award for carer Emily, 11
12 Dec 07 |  North East Wales
Carer role affects relationships
11 Jun 07 |  South East Wales
Teenager explains caring pressure
11 Jun 07 |  South East Wales
MP's 'Sam's Bill' for carers
06 Feb 04 |  Wales

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