Background: At a time when health and social care services in European countries are under pressure to contain or cut costs, informal carers are relied upon as the main providers of long-term care. However, still little is known about the availability of direct and indirect support for informal carers across the European Union.
Methods: Primary data collection in all EU member states was supplemented with an extensive review of the available literature.
Results: Various forms and levels of support have been implemented across Europe to facilitate the role of informal caregivers. Financial support is the most common type of support provided, followed by respite care and training. Most countries do not have a process in place to systematically identify informal carers and to assess their needs. Policies are often at an early stage of development and the breadth of support varies significantly across the EU.
Conclusions: Policy developments are uneven across the member states, with some countries having mechanisms in place to assess the needs and support informal carers while others are only starting to take an interest in developing support services. Given the unprecedented challenges posed by population ageing, further research and better data are needed to capture and monitor information on informal carers, to help design adequate support policies and eventually to evaluate their impact across the EU.