It’s National Dementia Awareness Week (14-20 May), and the Alzheimer’s Society has warned that the typical person’s bill for dementia social care would take an incredible 125 years to save up for.
The national charity warns that there are generations unprepared for what it calls “astronomical dementia costs”. Successive governments, it says, have placed the funding of dementia care solely on the shoulders of the people affected, but the new research shows that even if people did save for the care in the way they do for pensions, it wouldn’t be possible to do so.
The Alzheimer’s Society warns the bill will topple ‘generation rent’, the people who have fewer assets than the generations before, and those who are at greater risk of developing dementia because they are living longer.
As dementia can’t be cured or adequately treated, the costs arise from social care, rather than free NHS treatments that make living with the condition so expensive. The article quotes one woman, whose mother had the condition, reporting that her mum spent more than £500,000 on care. By the end of her mother Joan’s life, she couldn’t eat, drink, speak or move anything except for her eyes, but she still couldn’t apply for state funding and had to pay for all her care until she died.
Nearly half (47 percent) of the UK adults aged between 16-75 years old questioned for the Alzheimer’s Society’s research have not started saving for the care and support they could need in the future. A third (37 percent) of them agreed that they had not considered the cost of dementia care and support before being asked.
When questioned whether the Government should pay for care and support if a person developed dementia, more than half (54 percent) of UK adults interviewed agreed that the Government should pay. Only 5 percent disagreed.
The Alzheimer’s Society came up with the estimated time for saving for dementia care of 125 years as a suggested figure. It is based on considered assumptions, and the calculations were checked by a leading university. The figure considers the typical amount of social care and support someone with dementia would require following a diagnosis, and how much that would cost up to the end of life.
Because social care is highly labour intensive, the estimate assumes that the costs will rise in line with average earnings. A fair and understandable approach to long-term saving would be individual contributions to pensions. Statistics on average individual pension contributions suggest people typically put £800 a year into their pension. Therefore, a person would need to save for 125 years to fund the social care they would need if they were diagnosed with dementia.
The Society attributes the rapid rise in house prices over the last few decades as one reason many people living with dementia have to fund their own care. This means many older people have resources in excess of £100k because of the value of the house they own.
Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes, said: “Dementia is a disease, as cancer is a disease, as heart disease is a disease. Getting dementia shouldn’t mean families are left bankrupt or destitute with nothing to leave behind.
“On behalf of people with dementia, I challenge the next Government to create a long-term, sustainable system for funding dementia care. Currently, many people with dementia feel deserted by the state, and must rely on family members and carers for the support they need.”