Home care system for elderly with dementia is ‘on its knees’

·4-min read
Elderly care home resident - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Elderly care home resident - Yui Mok/PA Wire

Elderly people with dementia are being forced into care homes for want of basic help at home, a major charity has warned.

The Alzheimer’s Society said that the social system was “on its knees” before the pandemic, in a crisis that was deteriorating by the day.

One in three carers said visits from care workers were too rushed, while more than one in 10 was so worried about the poor quality of the help that they had to supervise it.

The poll of almost 800 family carers of those with dementia found that 27 per cent believed their loved ones could have stayed at home longer, if they had been given more support.

In almost half of such cases, families felt their loved ones could have delayed entering a care home for at least a year more with the right help.

In total, 33 per cent of those surveyed said they had not had the help they needed, while 31 per cent said that home care visits were too short. In addition, 12 per cent of those polled had to supervise home visits because care workers were not trained in dementia care.

The charity called for urgent investment in social care, while experts said that more help to keep people at home could massively ease the strain on the care home sector, as well as helping them to live with dignity and independence.

It follows warnings from the NHS regulator that care homes are on the brink of collapse, as staff abandon jobs in favour of working in pubs and restaurants.

On Friday, the Care Quality Commission said that Britain was facing a “tsunami” of unmet need, with growing numbers of elderly people likely struggling to access the care they need, without major reform.

Kate Lee, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “No one should have to choose between help with eating or washing during a visit. But sadly, this is the situation for many families, who have been struggling to get the care they need over the tough months of the pandemic.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can cure the care system, if the Government puts dementia at the heart of their social care plans to boost the quality of the system.”

The charity said that those with dementia had been worst hit by the pandemic, accounting for one in four deaths from coronavirus.

Last month, Boris Johnson announced a £36 billion funding boost for the NHS and reform of social care, funded by a 1.25 percentage point tax increase. However, only £5.4 billion has been ringfenced for social care, with reforms not due until 2023.

From 2023, a cap will be introduced, so no one has to pay more than £86,000 for their care in their lifetime, while funding support will be given to those of savings up to £100,000. Currently, only those with savings of less than £23,250 get such help.

The Alzheimer’s Society called for an immediate cash injection of at least £3.9 billion in this week’s spending review, saying it was needed to stabilise the sector.

The majority of social care users are people with dementia, who make up about three-fifths of those using home care.

Experts said that care at home should allow people to stay in a place they know and love for as long as possible, surrounded by those who know and love them the most.

However, research shows that two thirds of home care workers do not have any form of dementia training.

Family carers ‘feeling exhausted’

The latest polling by the Alzheimer’s Society found family carers have borne the brunt of the current system, with most feeling completely exhausted, reporting a decline in their mental or physical health due to increased pressures..

Only 20 per cent of family carers reported battles to access the care they need, with 12 per cent being refused respite care so they could have a break, and five per cent being denied any home care at all.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Dementia can have a profound and lasting impact on people’s lives and it is our priority to ensure that everyone receives the right care whenever they need it.

“We are committed to delivering world-leading social care across the country and we are investing £36 billion in health and care over the next three years – including £5.4 billion for social care – to put in place comprehensive reforms that are sustainable and fit for the future.”

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