As life expectancy increases, the likelihood of us having someone in our lives who requires care, particularly in older age, increases.  Especially since an increase in life expectancy doesn't always mean an increase in the number of healthy years we might experience as we age. This blog looks at the extent of unpaid caring for older people in the UK, it's impact on women over 50 and steps to take to maintain our wellbeing as we juggle competing priorities.

The statistics

The most recent Census in 2021 estimated that there are 5 million unpaid carers in England and Wales. This, together with ONS Census data for Scotland and Northern Ireland, suggests that the number of unpaid carers across the UK is 5.7 million. This means that around 9% of people are providing unpaid care.

 A study in 2021 by Age UK, found that there are over a million ‘sandwich' carers in the UK. These are people caring for an older person whilst still having responsibility for younger people.  Almost 70% of these are women.   

The 2021 Census also estimated that 59% of unpaid carers are women.  Women are more likely to become carers and to provide more hours of unpaid care than men. In addition, one in seven people in the workplace in the UK are juggling work and care.

Also, between 2010 and 2020, people aged 46-65 were the largest age group to become unpaid carers. 41% of people who became unpaid carers were in this age group.

So, for more and more women over 50, there is the prospect that we may take on at least some unpaid care for older relatives, neighbours or perhaps family friends. This might coincide with, or be shortly after, the time that children have left home and we might have expected to have more freedom and possibly time, to pursue personal interests.

Some impacts of unpaid caring

Whilst recognising that there are many rewards in caring for an older person, there are also a number of possible impacts that can affect the physical and mental health, well-being, finances and emotions of the care giver.

Juggling home, work and unpaid caring for older people can take its toll in many different ways.  It can be physically exhausting, stressful, emotionally charged and extremely time consuming.  It can impact on our ability to focus fully on our paid job, if in employment. It can involve navigating complex and often confusing systems around health and social care and the benefits system. There can be differences in the expectations of what the person being cared for expects and what the care giver has capacity to provide.

The financial situation of the older person can have a significant impact on the amount of caregiving needed.  Ability to pay for services and products can make the role of the caregiver easier. However, in 2022/23 there were 152,000 care staff vacancies will will impact on the availability of care in the community and residential settings.  Pay scales for care work are amongst the lowest in the UK economy, which contributes to the difficulty in attracting and retaining high quality staff.

Age UK have estimated that 2.6 million people over 50 in England are unable to get care. Many on waiting lists to have their needs assessed in addition to those waiting to get support.

Given that the UK has an ageing population, this makes concerning reading. My personal experience with my elderly parents a couple of years ago focussed my attention on researching what is available to unpaid carers.

 Below are links to organisations that provide support, advice and signposting for unpaid carers.  Reaching out for support is often a difficult first step to take, and may meet with resistance from the person being cared for, but is so important to looking after our own health and wellbeing.

However much we love our older relation or friend, we need and deserve to keep ourselves well. The sites below have a wealth of information about getting support for you as the unpaid carer, including connecting with other people in the same situation.


Resources for unpaid carers

Carers UK    Help and advice | Carers UK     ‘Carers UK is here to listen, to give you expert information and guidance, to champion your rights and support you in finding new ways to manage at home, at work, or wherever you are'. 

Age UK Age UK | The UK's leading charity helping every older person who needs us

Advice for carers downloadable information guide | Age UK

The Carer's Trust Homepage - Carers Trust  ‘We work to transform the lives of unpaid carers through collaboration, influence, evidence and innovation'. 

Adult Social Care departments of your local authority


Facebook groups for unpaid carers

Unpaid Carers Support Group (private) Unpaid Carers Support Group (UK) | Facebook

Stronger Together Unpaid Carers Facebook Group (private) Stronger Together Unpaid Carers Group | Facebook


If you are affected by the impact of being an unpaid carer and would like to focus on staying physically and emotionally well, then email me at and we can discuss how working with me can help you.