More than half of unpaid carers are unable to save for their own retirement, a report has found.
And more than two-thirds (68%) are dipping into their own income or savings to help cover the costs of caring for someone else, according to charity Carers UK.
Its survey of more than 7,500 people across the UK who are caring unpaid for family or friends found that 53% are unable to save for retirement.
More than eight in 10 (81%) of carers surveyed are female.
Nearly two-fifths (39%) are also in paid work and the majority provide well over 50 hours of care every week.
Many unpaid carers surveyed were aged between 50 and 64 – an age at which people tend to become more focused on their retirement plans.
Carers UK, a membership charity for people caring unpaid for family and friends, said the findings show the huge personal and financial cost of caring for a loved one.
Two fifths (39%) of carers said they are struggling to make ends meet.
One in eight (12%) carers said that they or their loved one had received less care or support in the previous year, as a result of reduced support from social services.
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “This is a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, with carers already providing high levels of support left short-changed as they use money for their retirement trying to cover the care costs of their loved one today.”
She continued: “Our current social care system is on the brink. Families urgently need affordable, high quality care services and carers need access to regular breaks and stronger workplace rights to ensure they can combine work and care if they wish to.
“The Conservative leadership candidates cannot afford to ignore this burning issue affecting millions across the country and must commit to funding and delivering a reformed system that has families at its heart.”
Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions minister who is now director of policy at Royal London, said carers should make sure they take up national insurance credits which could help towards their retirement.
He said carers are at risk of damaging their state pension prospects if they are not able to take paid work.
Sir Steve said: “This makes it all the more vital that they take up the various national insurance credits that are available to help in this situation.
“This includes credits for those caring for disabled people for more than 20 hours per week and a special scheme for grandparents who are looking after their grandchildren.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Many people will care for friends or family members at some point in their life, and carers play a vitally important role in our society.
“We are working with employers to do more to help carers stay in or find employment and will consult on dedicated employment rights for carers. Since 2010 we’ve also increased the rate of Carer’s Allowance, meaning carers will receive an additional £635 a year.
“We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care this year with a further £410 million is available for adults and children’s services and will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity.”