Aims: Expanding prevalence of diabetes has a major health impact on older people and the burden experienced by their informal carers. We report research which aimed to examine the burden on carers and highlight their input into diabetes care.
Methods: Of 98 diabetes patients aged over 59 years, 89 regularly received help with day-to-day activities or looking after from someone else and, of these, 83 carers consented to interview. Patients and carers were administered questionnaires related to the management of diabetes and personal strain (including Diabetes Knowledge Questionnaire, EuroQol, Caregiver Strain Scale and General Health Questionnaire).
Results: A substantial unmet need of older people with diabetes mellitus, in relation to domestic activities and diabetes care, was highlighted. Patient and carer diabetes knowledge was low. Primary carers were generally female relatives from the same household, not in paid employment. Twenty-seven carers (33%) provided > or = 35 h of care work each week. Most carers experienced a moderate level of stress, but 11 (14%) regularly felt overwhelmed. Thirty-three carers (40%) said they had never received any information on diabetes from professionals. Help most frequently wanted was advice and support in relation to accessing community services and about finances, benefits and/or allowances.
Conclusions: Both patient and carer diabetes education strategies are required. Instruction for carers in the basic care of patients with diabetes is also needed and should be targeted. As many as one in seven carers felt regularly overwhelmed and lacked adequate support. Finally, 26 carers (31%) were entitled to benefits which they did not claim.