Carers are suffering immense emotional and physical strain leading to depression and worse, according to a survey of carers by national disability charity Vitalise.
More than 80% of carers surveyed said they put the health of the loved one they care for before their own wellbeing.
Meanwhile, some 60% said that a lack of time away from caring leads them to feelings of depression, while a further 60% said that long periods without a break resulted in their getting angry at the person they care for.
But despite the obvious risks, Vitalise found that 4 out of 10 (39%) carers have not taken a single day off from caring in the past year.
The biggest barrier preventing carers from seeking respite was shown to be carers’ concerns that nobody else would be able to care for their loved ones, with 46%, followed by guilt at leaving them (39%) and worry that they would not be looked after properly in a care home (23%).
In contrast, the survey also brought to light the beneficial effects of regular breaks for carers. Nearly half (46%) of carers surveyed said it made them feel more able to cope and over a third said that they felt happier and healthier. But over a fifth (21%) said that afterwards they felt guilty that they had left a loved one to take time off.
1 in 8 of the adult population - an estimated 6.5 million people - act as unpaid carers for older, ill or disabled loved ones in the UK, with around 6,000 people taking on new caring responsibilities each day. Carers UK estimates that carers save the UK economy 119 billion each year - an average of £18,473 per carer.
People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to become permanently sick or disabled than the general population, with 625,000 people suffering mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring.