The importance of informal carers has only been partially recognised in the UK. A brief examination of recent policy such as the UK Carers Act will highlight the need for further action in this area. The conceptual debate about ‘what is caring’ is summarised: does it involve physical activities only? Are emotional elements also involved? The significance of the informal caregiver's role is discussed. Informal caregiving can bring rewards, but it often has to coincide with other equally demanding roles including employment. Moreover, psychological distress is common among informal carers generally, and the likelihood of poor psychological well-being is greater in carers of people with dementia compared with relatives of older people without dementia. The need to ‘care for carers’ is discussed. Many interventions aimed at caregivers are inadequate, and the optimum type of intervention may vary depending on the needs of the individual carer. Wider social and demographic changes may jeopardise the informal caring network, as it currently exists. Should our ‘invisible’ carers become unwilling, or unable, to sustain their caring role then the consequences could be bleak.