The general public are oblivious to the catastrophic costs of dementia care, with many believing it is free on the NHS, according to YouGov figures (1) released today by Alzheimer’s Society.
People with dementia typically spend £100,000 on care over their lifetime (2) – a shocking statistic that the vast majority (81%) of people surveyed were unaware of. When asked what they thought dementia care costs, almost half (46%) said they had no idea at all. The most common answer was between £25,000 and £50,000, well below the true cost.
The research also highlighted that 50% of the public didn’t know that dementia care isn’t provided for free by the NHS. While there are no drugs to cure or slow down the disease, people with dementia rely on social care for support every day, and decades of chronic under-funding mean families are often forced to foot the bill for spiralling care costs themselves.
Someone in the UK develops dementia every three minutes, and 850,000 people are currently living with the devastating disease, which slowly strips people of their memories and identities. Dementia costs the UK £26.3billion a year, which is largely shouldered by the families affected.
Pamela Jacques spent more than £200,000 in just three and a half years on care for her parents, who both had dementia, and even had to sell the family home to cover the cost. Pamela said: “My parents both worked until they were nearly 70 years old and were sensible with their money, but dementia care is so expensive. It isn’t something you can save for, and you shouldn’t have to.
“I feel a huge sense of unfairness – my parents served their country in the Second World War, my father in the air force and my mother in the navy and it feels as if the system they put so much into let them down when they needed it most. If they had developed a different illness, instead of dementia, the NHS would have cared for them. Why is dementia not treated equally?”
Despite a rapidly ageing population, the social care budget hasn’t increased since 2010, aside from £2bn in last year’s Spring Statement and the recently announced £240m winter boost. The UK’s leading dementia charity is warning that this is a false economy, piling pressure on the NHS – which burnt through up to £400m this year when people with dementia were hospitalised after inadequate social care left them unprotected, and a further £3m a week when these people got stuck on the ward because there was nowhere else for them to go.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, commented: “A million people in the UK will have dementia by 2021. With the current care system leaving families in financial ruin and the general public largely oblivious, we are sleepwalking into a crisis.
“Recent funding announcements will only prevent the immediate total collapse of support, and only for those who do get some state help. The Government must recognise the true cost and guarantee everyone with dementia access to the care they want, need and deserve.”
The charity is urging the Chancellor to ring-fence £2.5billion in the Autumn Budget for social care, in order to plug the current funding gap. In the longer term, it is campaigning for the Government to create a joined-up system, including an NHS Dementia Fund to help cover care costs and end the inequity with other diseases. To join the campaign, go to alzheimers.org.uk/fixdementiacare.