Caring for elderly as Anglo-Asian communities increase

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New research by Brunel University has found a shortfall in care for the elderly among south Asians living in the UK.

According to a study financed by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), most older people within Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities expect to receive care from their immediate relatives: a dependence which aligns with the broader UK population.

Elderly Care

The findings came with news that the proportion of the elderly in south Asian communities will grow substantially over the next 2 decades.

The research found that, other than NHS provision, the government gives formal care to no more than 10% of the older people from these communities.

Some, having brought up their children, feel that it is now the younger family members' duty to provide support, while others consider it a natural part of family life. Since state care is perceived by many to suggest failings on the part of the family, some study subjects said they preferred not to accept it.

Prof Christina Victor of Brunel University noted the key importance of the family for all older people, irrespective of their ethnicity.

"The family is central to the achievement of the government's key objective of enabling them to live at home for as long as possible," said Prof Victor. "Social care-based services may be more appropriate and acceptable if they focus upon helping and supporting families to care rather than being viewed as substitutes or alternatives to family care."

Some study subjects worried that their communities are changing and that in future, a modernised society will see families "less willing or able to care", with participants citing examples of older people sent to care homes by their offspring.

There is also recognition in the broader UK population that, due to smaller families, more complex family structures and emigration, relatives might one day be less able to provide support.

Prof Victor said her team's research is important because it proves the family's major role in caring for older people while demonstrating where UK minority communities and the wider population meet.

"We also highlight the problems of isolation and loneliness faced by carers which are largely ignored by service providers," she said. "Should local authorities not address the needs of carers from minority communities then we may face increased demand for long-term care."

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