The Alzheimer's Society has launched a #Cure The Care System campaign.
In a hard hitting new report it says many thousands of dementia sufferers are ending up in hospital with avoidable conditions due to lack of adequate social care with admission numbers soaring.
It says the pandemic has further revealed the failure of the care system to meet the needs of both those with dementia and their carers. The Society has warned unpaid carers struggling to access support with care are carrying a burden which could break them.
Now the charity's north west manager has added her voice to the campaign to reform the system, predicting that the NHS could face bills of millions of pounds if there is not adequate provision for those with dementia.
The society says its research findings, released to mark this week's Dementia Action Week (17-23 May), reveal tens of thousands were admitted to hospital after poor care left them unprotected from infections, falls and dehydration.
Their investigation found a 27% rise between 2015 – 2019 in the number of people with dementia taken to hospitals with such "avoidable emergencies".
The charity has released a YouTube campaign with a video entitled Cure the Care System. Supported by billboard advertising, the video exposes the stark reality of being a dementia carer without adequate support, concluding with the strapline: "Without support dementia claims more than one life." Viewers are urged to sign a petition calling for the reform of social care.
In the north west Alzheimer’s Society Lancashire and Cumbria Area Manager Tara Edwards said the pandemic lockdown had brought additional pressures which could cost the NHS millions of pounds. She said: “Lockdown has left people with dementia cut off from vital support and care. Interrupted routines, loneliness and isolation have contributed to rapid symptom progression, meaning there’s now more people than ever fighting for scarce dementia care. Without urgent action, avoidable hospital admissions will skyrocket, costing the NHS millions.
"Decades of chronic underfunding and neglect have led to a care system that’s inadequate and deeply unfair – the pandemic has exposed these failings like never before. People with dementia have been worst hit, accounting for over a quarter of all deaths and many more rapidly deteriorating from lockdown’s knock-on effects; family carers are exhausted.
She continued: "This cannot be the kind of society that we expect today and that we want to grow old in - never again must people affected by dementia face such devastation.The legacy of this terrible year must be a reformed social care system, which is free at the point of use and put on an equal footing with the NHS. We need a system that gives every person with dementia the support they deserve and so desperately need.”
There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, including 24,500 in Lancashire and Cumbria. An Alzheimer’s Society UK-wide survey by YouGov revealed that for people in the north west social care ranks second behind the NHS and ahead of policing, schools and housing, as a priority for government funding. Accessing good quality care in the future is also a major concern with 63% of people surveyed in the region saying it was something they worried about.
Tara added: “With no drugs to cure or slow down the condition, it’s social care that people with dementia rely on every day. But lack of time and dementia-specific training among the overworked and underpaid care workforce means people with dementia aren’t getting the support they need, either in their homes or in residential care, leading to emergency admissions and more pressure on the NHS."
The society says it is frustrated that last week's Queen’s Speech "made only a brief mention of the Prime Minister’s promise nearly two years ago to deliver a clear plan for social care reform" and describes this as "a devastating blow for people living with dementia, worst hit by coronavirus." It is calling on the government to ‘cure the care system’.
It said that in 2019 alone, nearly two thirds (65%) of all emergency admissions of people with dementia were for avoidable illnesses and injuries which the society claims were caused by failures in care.:Meanwhile in a survey of 795 unpaid dementia carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, , almost half (48%) reported that they had performed tasks they felt unqualified to carry out because of a lack of support, and as a result, they reported three-quarters (72%) of people with dementia having medical issues at home.
*See alzheimers.org.uk/DAW for details of the #CureTheCareSystem campaign. For information, advice and support call Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 345 or see the charity's website.
For our report on the experience of one Lancashire family coping with dementia during lockdown and the extra anguish created by the pandemic see here .
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