Families Drained By Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia patients and their families are being hit by a ‘care tax’ of more than £20,000 (about $25,000) a year, research has revealed. They are forced to ‘break the bank’ to pay for extra basic help from their own pockets because it is not provided by local authorities.

On top of that, relatives are having to undertake everyday tasks such as washing, feeding and dressing which often forces them to give up jobs. It is now estimated that of the £26 billion a year cost of dementia to the UK, patients and their families are picking up two-thirds of the amount – about £17.4 billion.

The London School of Economics was commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society to calculate the care burden – and found that the average dementia patient and their relatives are hit by a ‘tax’ of £21,322 a year.

The figure includes £7,085 to pay for private carers on top of an estimated £14,237 in unpaid care provided by family members themselves. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt accepted that the costs were ‘unfair’ to families and promised to provide more financial help to families.

He said: ‘I want to make sure those with dementia, their families and carers get the help they need. It’s precisely because people face such unfair care costs that we are transforming the way people pay for care, capping the amount they have to pay and providing more financial help.’

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said it was wrong that patients had to pay for their own care when those with cancer or heart disease had care provided free by the NHS.

‘This new research exposes the staggering financial and human impact of dementia,’ he said. ‘It is plain to see that our social care system is on its knees, leaving an army of tens of thousands of unpaid carers bearing the brunt.

‘If you have cancer or heart disease you can quite rightly expect that the care you need will be free. That is just not the case for people with dementia.

‘Families are forced to break the bank to pay for basic care for a loved one.’

Problems arise because home care is not provided by the NHS but by local councils – whose budgets have been slashed, forcing many families to pick up the tab for private care themselves.

By contrast, patients with heart disease or cancer are assured of free care on the NHS – because health budgets have been protected from cuts.

The research also found that an estimated 225,000 people in the UK develop the condition every year – or one person every three minutes. This means that by next year, 850,000 patients will have the condition, rising to two million by 2051.

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Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease.