Over 69% of carers in Wales do not feel sufficiently supported whilst caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, a new survey from the charity, Beat, has found.
The survey collected data from people based in Wales who have cared for a loved one with an eating disorder during the past three years.
30 people from Wales responded to the survey, while the charity estimates there are around 1.25 million people across the UK living with an eating disorder.
Whilst over 78% of Welsh carers say their loved one has received treatment for their eating disorder, the survey found that only 41% of carers have received support for their own mental health.
A carer based in Wales who took part in the survey said: "My loved one and I were extremely close and still are, but I personally found it difficult that in the depths of her anorexia she trusted the eating disorder thoughts more than me. I couldn’t get my head around it until I learnt a lot more about the illness."
Clare, a carer from Newport, has been caring for her daughter who was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2020.
She says: ‘We were referred to CAHMS who have been incredible and involved us as a whole family from day one, including giving us tasks every week to help support our daughter.
‘As parents, we’ve also had sessions without our daughter to check we are coping as well as her. CAMHS has been unbelievably supportive of us as carers, and more importantly they have been incredible with our daughter."
People who took part in the survey said they needed more information and guidance whilst their loved one was unwell. Over 80% of carers said one-to-one guidance with a healthcare professional would have been helpful.
In order to help ensure carers feel supporter, Beat says it has launched a new range of support services for carers in Wales, including weekly telephone coaching for carers, parents and siblings, lead by a trained Beat advisor. This provides a safe space for families to discuss their experiences and learn techniques to guide their loved one towards recovery.
Beat also provides five online workshops for carers over Zoom. Alongside others caring for someone with an eating disorder, carers can learn new skills from an experienced eating disorder clinician, including motivational techniques and ways to cope during mealtimes.
Beat’s National Officer for Wales, Jo Whitfield said: "Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be an upsetting and isolating experience, and it’s important that families are able to get support for their own mental health, as well as for their loved one.
‘We’d also like to highlight that eating disorders are complex mental illnesses, which are never anybody’s fault. Eating disorders can be distressing for the person impacted as well as their families, but we’d like to reassure people that recovery is always possible."
People who are currently caring for a loved one with an eating disorder in Wales can now contact the new Beat helpline 365 days a year on 0808 801 0433 or visit the Beat website to access carer support services and information.