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The Social Care Crisis Is A Dementia Crisis

21/05/2017 20:32 BST | Updated 21/05/2017 20:32 BST
Alistair Berg via Getty Images

You have saved your entire life for your pension. You put away funds every month with dreams of an early retirement, going travelling or relocating to a village in the countryside. But then you develop dementia. Instead of spending your carefully saved pension on the retirement of your hopes and dreams, or using it to support your family, you are left with no choice but to pay £1,000 per week for a place at a care home.

In fact, even if you had anticipated this alternative future, an investigation by Alzheimer's Society has revealed that it would take 125 years to save for the typical person's dementia social care bill - more than a lifetime.

Dementia is a health condition caused by diseases in the brain. Yet unlike cancer or heart disease, dementia cannot be cured or effectively treated. Apart from some drugs that may reduce the symptoms of dementia for a limited time, the only support available is help to meet people's basic daily needs, such as washing, dressing and eating. So instead of support and treatment offered for free through the NHS, people with dementia are dependent on costly social care.

Surprisingly few people are aware that dementia care is often not funded by the state. More still have no concept of the weekly cost of a care home place. Yet even if you did know, and started to save for your care today, you would still have no prospect of covering the typical bill.

Converse to the growing number of people developing dementia, since 2009 there has been an estimated £4.6 billion cut to the social care sector. These slashed budgets yield stretched services, cut corners and avoidable mistakes that leave people with dementia neglected and suffering. On top of this, the shortfalls in funding by successive governments have left people affected by dementia and their families plugging the gaps. Joan, whose parents both live in a £2,000/week care home, is terrified of the future. She's calculated that all of her parents' savings combined with the sale of their bungalow will only pay for another four and a half years of care. The situation is unthinkable for her and her husband, who are both retired and live solely off their pension. No one should be forced to decide between supporting their parents and funding day-to-day life for themselves.

Judith, whose mum Joan had Alzheimer's disease, saw her mother spend a staggering £500,000 on her dementia care. She was forced to spend almost all her savings to pay for her care, and only able to leave a fraction to her grandchildren as she had wished. By the end of her life, despite being unable to eat, speak or move anything but her eyes, Joan still wasn't applicable for state funding and paid for all her care until she passed away last August.

The social care crisis is a dementia crisis. With such a huge proportion of people with dementia dependent on social care, we urgently need a solution to ensure that everyone gets the right support when they need it. Currently, many people with dementia feel deserted by the state, and must rely on family members and carers for the support they need. Too many people like Joan are forced to give everything they own to care for a loved one. It's vital that the next Government creates a long term, sustainable system for funding dementia care.

In a series of videos we confronted the public with an alternative future of dementia. Their genuine shock shows that spending all they've saved for on care costs is not something people even consider as part of their future, despite one person developing dementia in the UK every three minutes: A different future - dementia doesn't care who you are

Alzheimer's Society is urging people to come together to unite against dementia and create change. To unite with us visit alzheimers.org.uk.