Older people working in social care are not given adequate support networks according to a new study published by Kingston University.

The report was titled 'Experiences and support needs of older carers' and presented the findings of a focus group in the Maturitas medical journal.

It found that although older carers need the same support networks as younger colleagues in the profession, they might not use or have access to them in the same way.

The report read: "This age group are believed to often need greater support than younger carers but may be less likely to admit to this or to be able to find out about services. "

"Older carers are also thought to perhaps be less persistent in their efforts to access support both because of their ambivalence about asking for help but also because of their reducing energy levels."

A total of 35 participants from the voluntary and statutory sectors (local authority, health and social care) participated in the four focus groups held in outer London from which the study derived its conclusions.

Most were female (89 per cent) and from the voluntary sector (86 per cent).

From one discussion quoted in the report: "One thing that you get with older carers that you don't get anywhere near as much with younger adults, is they feel like a burden themselves, and there's a lot of guilt around asking for help."

The discussions and interviews taken from the participants also highlighted the increased sense of loneliness and social isolation felt by many who work in social care was heightened for older care workers.

One respondent who took part in the discussions described a typical situation: "Her health is not good and she’s now having to look after her husband who's starting with dementia and she sometimes goes weeks without seeing anybody …. I think after a time if you keep saying, 'Well sorry I can't go out,' … people just dwindle, and in the end, you can count on one hand the number of people that maybe would still support you."

Overall, the report said that five main issues affected older carers involved in the focus groups more acutely, namely "perceptions of older carers' ambivalence about asking for support, their multiple losses, often restricted lives, social isolation and loneliness and concerns for their loved ones when they can no longer care."

The report was produced by Nan Greenwood, Raymond Smith and Sally Brearley from Kingston University and St Georges, University of London, and Carole Pound from Bournemouth University.