Elderly carers are saving the NHS around £5.9 billion, a new report has suggested.
New figures, released by Age UK, has shown that there has been a significant growth in the number of carers over the age of 80 in the past seven years. According to the data, there are now 417,000 people in this demographic who are caring for a friend or family member.
This is an increase of more than a third (39 per cent) and shows that now one in seven people over the age of 80 are a carer of some sort. In addition, over half of these (144,000 people) looking after their loved ones were doing so for more than 35 hours each week, while some 150,000 were acting as an unpaid carer for more than 20 hours a week.
With an ageing population, it is predicted that there will be more than 760,000 carers over the age of 80 by 2030.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said there is a "huge debt of gratitude" owed to these elderly people who are spending their time working up to full-time hours caring for other people.
With nearly £6 billion being saved with these unpaid carers, more needed to be invested into supporting them and ensuring they are able to look after their partner, friend or adult child, Ms Abrahams explained.
Respite care can be a brilliant way to support carers, regardless of how old they are. It can ensure that carers get a break and the rest they need to be able to look after their loved ones.
The findings from Age UK also found that the number of carers over the age of 65 who are providing informal care has also risen substantially in the past seven years. In this time, there have been an extra 300,000 people in this demographic who are looking after loved ones, taking the overall figure to more than two million.
Ms Abrahams said: "Most of these wonderful older people tell us they care because they want to and are committed to, but they also often say they see no alternative.
"Many admit to being exhausted and worried about how long they can carry on, and the consequences if they become seriously ill themselves."
She said that providing care should be something that's shared fairly between individuals, families and the state, but cuts in public funding has fallen further behind the growing demand for care.
Emily Holzhausen OBE, director of policy at Carers UK, said: "Our ageing population calls for greater investment now, from government, social care services and the NHS to meet the increasing demand for care but also support the rapidly expanding numbers of older people who are themselves providing care."
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