Brits who care for friends or family who are old or have conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy collectively spend 196 million hours worrying about them every week, according to new research from O2 Health.
On average carers spend about four hours each day fretting about the well-being of those they support. With seven million unpaid carers in the UK that adds up to nerve-racking 22,000 years worth of shared torment crammed into every seven days. A notable minority (4 per cent – an estimated 280,000 people ) say they worry all their waking hours (18 or more hours a day). The research coincides with the launch of O2 Health’s new mobile care service, Help at Hand, which aims to help cut this worry.
When asked what impact caring has on them and their lives, 15 per cent said they feel stressed and 7 per cent said physical ill health. A staggering one in ten (8 per cent) – an estimated 560,000 people – say they have had to give up work or are considering doing so in order to fulfil their caring role.
According to the research, carers are worrying for good reason. A third (34 per cent) of elderly people or those with a long-term health condition say they lack the confidence or reassurance they need to get out and about. Nearly half (46 per cent) lack this confidence because they worry they will be affected by their condition or vulnerability when out of the house. Two thirds (66 per cent) of people say their long-term health condition or age stops them from doing many every-day tasks such as going for a walk, meeting friends, seeing family, going out for a meal or to a museum or exhibition. A fifth (20 per cent) say they worry every time they step outside the front door.
Just under two thirds (65 per cent) of those who do some caring agreed or strongly agreed that they would feel more at ease if the person they supported had a way of alerting others to a fall, a fit, or just being able to call for help whenever or wherever they needed it at any time of the day. Knowing that help and support was available to the person they care for at the touch of a button for would make them feel reassured (48 per cent) or would provide peace-of-mind (35 per cent).
Help at Hand aims to provide this reassurance or peace-of-mind by connecting people to those they depend on for care. It comprises a special handset with a fall detector, GPS tracking, designated ‘safe zones’ and a special one-touch button that links to a 24/7 support centre that can contact loved ones, carers, or the emergency services if help is needed.
Nikki Flanders, Managing Director, O2 Health, says: “We all know someone who has to care in some way for a friend or family member. Whether it’s checking in on an elderly parent who is becoming forgetful or keeping an eye on a son or daughter who has bad asthma, it’s only natural to worry about them – even if incidents rarely happen. Often, this can be remedied through the reassurance that support can be called for at any time, in any place, in or out of the home using the mobile network.
“The Help at Hand mobile care service gives people who have a health condition or feel vulnerable the confidence to get out and about safe in the knowledge that help is the press of a button away. This differs from traditional fixed telephone line ‘telecare’, which gives people help, but only in the confines of their home – trapping them indoors. Meanwhile, carers are reassured they can be called simply and easily if anything should go wrong. It’s all about independence for users and peace-of-mind for carers.”
Helen Bickley, 30 from Pontypridd suffers from dyspraxia which causes falls. She trialled the service in autumn 2012 and says: “Help at Hand gives you the freedom to start doing things that previously you wouldn’t have been able to do. It gave me the confidence to learn to cycle. I didn’t think something so small could make such a big difference to me. It’s made me look to the future in a different way.”
Luen Thompson from the Carers Trust says: “Worry about the person they care for can become detrimental to a carers own physical health and mental wellbeing. Importantly, carers are entitled a life of their own, outside caring, but so often feel trapped by their circumstances. 3 in 5 of us will become a carer at some point in our lives. Tools which help carers to care but give them the confidence to get on with their own lives at the same time are a great addition to the package of support that carers may be entitled to. This technology is a welcome addition to the static telecare packages currently available to carers providing freedom and confidence outside of the home.”
Help at Hand is now available on O2’s website, in O2 shops and in 100 Sainsbury’s pharmacy stores and works anywhere in the UK covered by the O2 network. The service costs £20 per month with a one-off RRP £99 payment to buy the handset.