Community nurses supporting carers of older people
The number of people caring for older family members or friends in the community is increasing and will continue to increase in the foreseeable future for three reasons: the ageing population (Centre for Ageing Better, 2022), austerity in local authority budgets (Glendinning, 2016) and a rights-based attitude to autonomy and choice for older people regarding where they live. These changes increase the pressure on community nurses. Knowledge of sources of information, advice and support is invaluable for such nurses, who need to signpost informal carers to help them provide help for their older relatives. Without this, the carer and the person they care for would be more dependent on health services.
According to the charity Carers UK (2019), 1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers. The population of carers is not static, as new family members become dependent and older members move into residential care or die. The role does not stop immediately during such transitions, as the carer continues to provide both direct care in the residential setting, as well as oversight of the professional residential care provider. Eventually, they may also have to manage a funeral and winding up of their loved one's estate. Older carers in their seventies look after parents and in-laws in their nineties. Very old people care for even older spouses or partners. In such cases, the carer may have multiple health needs of their own. The person being cared for may resist any offers of professional care and refuse to accept residential care, making life more difficult for the carer.
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