Most informal carers admit they have already felt emotionally drained and more than seven in ten need urgent psychological support, according to a study to be published today, Lusa promotes.
Data from this national survey, which will be presented in Lisbon, reveals that 83.3% of informal carers surveyed admit to feeling “burnt out” and that 77.9% recognize that they need psychological support, but less than half of them seek and enjoy this help.
“The data tells us this: they need it, they want it and they have already tried to get psychological support,” said psychologist Ana Carina Valente, who led the study and is a professor at ISPA – University Institute of Psychological, Social and Life Sciences. Lusa, stressing that the results show that “there is psychological suffering in caregivers”.
The national survey, carried out by Merck with the support of the Movimento Caring for Informal Caregivers, also shows that 78.5% consider their mental health condition to be affecting their performance in their role as informal carers and around half say that you are not able to laugh and see the bright side like before.
Although 77.9% recognize the need for psychological support, less than half seek and use this support. “The response of psychological support in Portugal, for example, from the National Health Service, is not an effective response”, considers Ana Carina Valente.
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“In reality, there is no public support that meets all the people who need psychological support. (…) Even the people who feel this need and seek this help, not all of them receive it, because (…) they have to resort to private services, where they have to pay for a consultation”, the official recalled, stressing that more over half of caregivers are unemployed.
“We know that more than half of carers are unemployed, in very vulnerable situations in terms of their functioning and caring for family and relatives, and therefore don’t always have money left,” she explains.
To help tackle this problem, the official is advocating the creation of free helplines where carers could get this help without having to leave the home where they are caring for the person they are responsible for.
“The carers themselves recognize the need,” recalls the expert, considering that the appearance of these support lines would be “a very important and very effective response.”
“It gives me the opportunity to take care of myself without having to spend money that I often don’t have,” adds the manager, insisting that “health centers and hospitals don’t always provide an effective response.”
Regarding the effectiveness of remote monitoring, Ana Carina Valente says that “all studies show that it is effective” and that, in this case, caregivers often cannot be away from home.
“So we were able to minimize the consequences of being a caregiver and also help them reduce those outcomes, which are so important in this population,” he added.
On how the help will work, he answers: “Either with the National Health System or, for example, some associations could have support to hire psychologists to do this work.”
“We have some support lines in Portugal. This would be another one, specifically for carers, where psychologists would be trained to work in this area,” he said. “There is no health without mental health.”
Giving the example of the company that carried out the study (Merk), which invested in this study, the psychologist argues that private companies could also invest in this issue.
The survey concludes that most of these carers are in a state of vulnerability (psychological, emotional and social) and shows that more than six in 10 (63.7%) find it difficult to be calm or relaxed.
The data also shows that 45.7% often feel anxious/tight and that 37.4% have lost the will to take care of themselves.
“They ask, they shout about this need. I think we all need to look at these results and do something. These people are asking for help and they need help,” the official insists.
The study covered more than 1,100 carers, who responded to surveys between November 3, 2022 and January 4, 2023. Based on estimates from the Social Security Institute, there will be around 1.1 million informal carers in Portugal.