IT IS difficult to maintain a positive demeanour when considering the heartless inevitability of dementia in Britain today, and the limited options available for giving those living with it a reasonable quality of life.
One in six people over the age of 80 has some form of dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise above one million by 2025. Some 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes.
It has the makings of a perfect storm for the care sector, charities, government agencies and local authorities who are trying to source funding for care – and, not least, for families who will see their loved ones effectively disappear before their eyes.
Perhaps understandably, few people prepare for such circumstances financially, since dementia is unforeseeable and often manifests itself in small increments which are increasingly tolerated until the point of crisis. But the condition, particularly in the latter stages, requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week care and the costs of providing this are hugely prohibitive.
Some financial help may be available from local authorities, but this will depend very much on individual needs and how much the family can contribute. Some benefits may also be available.
But even if help is available, it is unlikely to cover all the costs involved and self-funding may become necessary. There are financial products such annuity contracts which are designed for older people needing immediate care. They give a guaranteed income for life, in return for an upfront lump-sum investment. There are other options, all of which should be discussed with a professional financial adviser before any decisions are taken.
With the statistics surrounding dementia, hoping that nothing will happen is not really an option. Families with older relatives must realise that care costs will probably have to be met at some stage.
Bodies such as the government’s Money Advice Service and the Society of Later Life Advisers can give valuable guidance on the options available to families.
Being prepared financially makes sense on many levels – the time to start thinking about it is now.
• Tim Cocking is director of elderly care firm Bright Care