The NHS is one of our proudest institutions, taking care of millions of us each year, treating and curing a myriad of conditions. But when it comes to dementia, one of our biggest health and social care challenges today, while there remains no cure for the condition it falls to our creaking social care system to support some of our most vulnerable people.
Today in a parliamentary debate on dementia, MPs will be urging the government to act on dementia care funding to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
Dementia care needs an urgent injection of cash to support the estimated 60% of home care recipients and 70% of residential care recipients who live with dementia. Last month, I was proud to support a proposal from Alzheimer’s Society for a new Dementia Fund. Their proposal of a financial boost for the dementia care system paid for from unallocated money in the NHS Long-Term Plan, puts people at the centre of their own care, giving control and choice to people diagnosed with dementia and their families, supported by a team of professionals.
People like Patrick Ettenes, who I met in Parliament. He lives with a type of frontal lobe atrophy and, in 2016, was the youngest person to be diagnosed with this particular type of dementia. He expressed his deep concern about what the future may hold for him. He has calculated his likely future care costs to be hundreds of pounds per month – and the nature of dementia means that he does not know when he will begin to need that care. I meet many other people with dementia and similar funding issues in my constituency and around the country every week.
Patrick told me just how many people he has met who share his fear of the future under our present social care system, where typical care costs for a person with dementia are currently £100,000. For some, the cost can be up to £500,000. The additional costs of dementia care are a real “dementia penalty”, a burden on families shoulders, and it occurs for reasons such as the additional staff training needed, the environmental changes necessary to care environments and the better staff: service user ratios.
There must be additional financial support in place for people with dementia, so that they can “rest, knowing something is in place” while coming to terms with a diagnosis.
We must of course as a Conservative Party deliver our promise to the British people and exit the European Union by 31st
October. But it is possible, and essential, for us to take on long term social care reform too - and to provide an immediate boost in the meantime to vulnerable people who most desperately need their urgent care needs to be met via a dedicated Dementia Fund.
I regularly organise Memory Cafés in my constituency, where I hear first hand from people who have spent all their life savings on their care, because they have developed dementia and not another health condition. It is time for the health and social care system to properly include them and their care – local government, care providers, and people living with dementia simply cannot continue to shoulder the cost of care.