Unpaid carers are fearful of how they will cope with increased restrictions or lockdowns, a charity has said.
Seventy-eight percent of carers claim the support requirements for the person they care for have grown over the period of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Carers UK.
The survey, of 5,904 carers in September, ascertained that 80% are providing more care than they were prior to lockdown, and two-thirds (67%) are concerned about how they will cope with further lockdowns or local restrictions.
The increased burden has left two-thirds of carers exhausted and worn out, with 64% experiencing worsening mental health and 58% seeing their physical health impacted.
Chief executive Helen Walker said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic.
“They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services.
“It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly.
"I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic.”
Many survey respondents cited the detrimental impact of the national lockdown on their relatives’ physical and mental health.
Four in 10 carers said their caring responsibilities had increased along with the needs of the person being cared for, while 38% said this was due to local services being significantly reduced or closed.
Two-thirds (64%) told the charity they have not been able to take any breaks in the last six months.
One carer said: “It has been the hardest six months of my life and I am dreading another lockdown.”
Another told the charity: “I am a shadow of what I was before going into lockdown. I am lonely, fed up and depressed, yet I can’t show these traits and must carry on my caring duties, no matter what.
“It worries me that carers who are in the same position as myself will be feeling the same and may do drastic things to escape.”
The government must urgently review break services, and ensure recipients of Carer’s Allowance receive an extra £20 a week to help cover costs during the outbreak, the charity says.
And local authorities must use the infection control fund to help reopen day and support services as part of a “new deal” for carers.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said: “It’s essential that the government works with local government and the voluntary sector to try to ensure that every carer is offered some kind of break.
“Age UK also warmly supports the idea of a new deal for carers: it’s shocking that carers have not been given the same temporary uplift in money that has gone to recipients of Universal Credit and that’s an area which the Government should immediately address.”
The Local Government Association called for more funding to support unpaid carers through winter, adding: “Councils fully recognise their crucial role and assess and support hundreds of thousands of carers every year, but could do even more with the right resources.
“Every part of the care and support sector is under intense pressure due to the current crisis and councils are doing all they can to support carers and those they care for through this.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the vital role played by unpaid carers, especially during this difficult period, and we continue to work closely with carer organisations to support them.
“We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals as part of our commitment to bringing forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.”