The financial impact of a loved one developing dementia is something that most of us don’t think about, until it happens. However, the repercussions of the Government’s austerity measures and an already overburdened NHS, mean that a large number of people are learning that the ‘cradle to grave’ care they assumed would look after them, is not often possible when it comes to dementia.
There is now a growing movement of MPs who are looking to ensure that people with dementia receive the same level of care as those with other life limiting conditions. At the moment, all cancer care is covered by the NHS, however care for people with dementia is means tested which means that the majority of those with the condition will end up paying for some if not most of their at home and in home care.
When the time comes to require specialist care, the local council will calculate the cost required to provide that care and how much should be contributed from the individual’s resources. For people with over £23,250 in assets or savings (the family home is included in this), they are required to ‘self-fund’ and pay all fees in full. For those with assets below that amount, the local council will contribute on a sliding scale and look at the individual’s income. Once all eligible income is taken in to account, as long as the individual is left with £24.90 per week (known as the Personal Expenses Allowance) after paying care fees, they are deemed ‘able to pay’ and will therefore be billed for their care. For those without that level of income, the council will contribute to care. Care home fees vary depending on the area of the country. Costs for care works out on average at around £600 a week but can be around £1000 a week for private care homes that specialise in dementia care.
The Alzheimer’s Society and 68 cross-party MPs are now demanding that there is a dementia fund made available to those with the illness.
With a promised 20 billion pound boost to the NHS budget by 2023/24, the MPs wrote to the health secretary Matt Hancock to demand that a percentage of this extra funding is made directly available to people with dementia. This money could be spent on the care costs required to live with the illness, such as home adaptations and care home costs – which are up to 15 per cent more expensive for patients with dementia.
However the NHS is struggling to cope with the added burden of a growing and ageing population, with the average cost of an individual’s care at around £100,000 and nearly a million people already diagnosed with the disease, it’s easy to see why there is a need to make hard decisions on who receives funds and who should contribute to their long term care. But is it fair? If a married couple have worked for 50 years, paying taxes, National Insurance contributions and paying in to their savings and pensions every month, is it right to compound the difficulties of living with dementia by forcing the sale of their family home and the depletion of all of their assets in order to receive the basic care they require as the disease progresses? Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, says ‘Decades of underfunding has left people with dementia struggling with a system that is unfair and unsustainable.’
A BBC Panorama programme recently highlighted the difficulties with social care funding in the UK and how it should be an urgent priority for the government to make good on their promises to overhaul the existing system and ensure it is adequately funded. We all wait keenly for the government to set out their plans, but sadly the announcement keeps being postponed. The most recent deadline of the 1st of April 2019 has been missed and at the the time of writing there is no date of publication from the government, this is very disappointing indeed.