The ‘tipping point’ for care is the point at which the care required by older people exceeds families’ propensity to care. In 2010, Carers UK published a report stating that unless action was taken immediately, by 2017 the UK would reach this tipping point. Sufficient measures have not been taken, and both Australia and the UK are now witnessing the effects of the tipping point.
One in eight adults in Australia and the UK are carers
Lynne is a full-time carer for her mum, Jean. She helps her mum with medications and pain management, and because her mobility is greatly restricted, she supports her to use walking aides and takes her wherever she needs or wants to go. Lynne is also responsible for all their household chores and maintenance including cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and gardening.
The average age of a carer is 56 years old
70% of carers are women
Carers provide an average of 13 hours of care per week
One in four older people now live alone, without a family member to provide informal care. This is due to higher divorce rates and rising childlessness
Current carers will soon transition to recipients of care, due to the high average age of carers
As more women and older people enter the labour market, their capacity to provide unpaid care is reduced
There are less carers delivering care to more people. The increasing demands on carers have meant that they are more likely to experience poor mental health, physical health and financial insecurity.
There are five potential strategies that could be leveraged in order to address the tipping point for care.
Addressing an increase in the prevalence of age-related disability
There has been an increase in life expectancy over the past century, and more people are now living in states of age-related disability. The peak age for caring is currently 50-64 years old. As this cohort ages, their role will shift from carer to care recipient, simultaneously increasing the demand for care while reducing the pool of carers.
Supporting people in paid employment to continue to provide care
A rise in participation rates of women and older people in paid care have reduced these groups propensity to
provide unpaid care.
Accommodating for new and more diverse family structures
Smaller family sizes, higher divorce rates, rising childlessness and an increase in single person families have reduced the size of the support network available to older people.
Improving the physical and mental health of carers
Poor physical and mental health can reduce an individual’s capacity to provide care, and has fiscal implications on the health system.
Creating financial security for carers
Many carers need to reduce or withdraw from paid employment, creating a situation of financial insecurity.
This increases pressure on the welfare system, and exacerbates poor health states.