Experiences and support needs of older carers: A focus group study of perceptions from the voluntary and statutory sectors

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Objectives: Older informal carers play a vital, growing role in supporting others with long-term health conditions but their support needs and experiences are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions of volunteers and professionals of the experiences and support needs of older carers (aged 70+ years). Methods: Thirty-five volunteers and professionals working with older carers in the voluntary and statutory sectors participated in a series of focus groups in outer London, United Kingdom. Groups were audio recorded, transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. Findings: Five main themes were identified. These included participants’ perceptions of older carers’ ambivalence about asking for support, their multiple losses, often restricted lives, social isolation and loneliness and concerns for their loved ones when they can no longer care. Overall, these themes are similar to those reported for adult carers in general but older carers’ experiences were regarded as more challenging primarily because of their pride, attitudes to caring and because of their age, their own health was often declining making the physical aspects of caring and leaving their homes more difficult. Concerns about the future are thought to be particularly important for older carers of adult children with disabilities because they expect to be outlived by their children, although similar concerns were voiced by spouses of partners living with dementia. Conclusions: Professionals and volunteers need to consider these additional challenges for older carers. Support with accessing services, for example from the voluntary sector, is important as is future exploration of how to support older carers in planning for the future care for their loved ones is needed.




Greenwood, N., Pound, C., Smith, R., & Brearley, S. (2019). Experiences and support needs of older carers: A focus group study of perceptions from the voluntary and statutory sectors. Maturitas, 123, 40–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.02.003

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