The number of older people with care or support needs is on the rise across the UNECE region. While there are efforts to expand formal long-term care services to respond to this growing demand, informal care forms the backbone of long-term care (LTC) provision across the UNECE region. There is diversity in the way long-term care provision is organised and financed across the region as well as with regard to the status, recognition and support provided to informal carers. Although informal carers cover an estimated 70 to 95 per cent of all care needs, they are often called the ‘invisible workforce’ in long-term care systems as they are rarely registered or counted and their status as informal care provider is often not formally recognized. The majority of informal care is provided by women.
By covering for the gaps in both short-term and long-term formal care provision, thus “co-producing” care services alongside professional service providers, informal carers help prevent or delay the need for institutionalization of people in need of care or support and are enabling them to remain living at home.
It is challenging for informal carers to cover short-term care needs for a family member, neighbour or friend. It becomes even more demanding the longer this activity has to be performed, especially when informal carers might themselves be of advanced age and care recipients themselves. Policy measures are needed to address the growing need for care in a way that prevents strain on families and caregivers and protects their health and well-being. Public policies need to ensure that informal carers will not be forced to reduce or give up paid employment, face social exclusion and ultimately be caught in a poverty trap.
This policy brief focuses on informal carers who provide long-term informal care to older persons. It addresses the policy challenge to support informal carers in a multifaceted way, identifying key challenges faced by informal carers and policy strategies to address them.