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Our dementia shame: Alzheimer's failings force 50,000 into care homes

By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 9:05 AM on 25th January 2011

At least 50,000 dementia sufferers have been forced into care homes unnecessarily because they do not get enough support at home. 

The cost to the taxpayer of having to treat them in institutions is £71million a month, even though they could more cheaply and effectively be cared for at home. 

Almost as much again is spent by their families on care home bills.

High cost: It is costing £121m a month to look after those with Alzheimer's in care homes, with £71m covered by the NHS and councils, while the other £50m is covered by families

High cost: It is costing £121m a month to look after those with Alzheimer's in care homes, with £71m covered by the NHS and councils, while the other £50m is covered by families

Tens of thousands more sufferers have been admitted to hospital after their condition was allowed to deteriorate at home, a report by the Alzheimer’s Society claims.


Loving: Actor Kevin Whately knows how dementia can have a devastating effect on families after his mother Mary was diagnosed with the disease

Actor Kevin Whately knows all too well the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.

His mother Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 75 and lived with the disease for eight years until her death in 2009 at 83.

Whately, star of ITV’s detective drama Lewis, is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and wrote the report’s foreword. 

He said: ‘My mum was known for her fiercely independent nature. 

‘This was something I admired and, following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, was something I passionately wanted to help her preserve. 

‘Dementia is a cruel condition but I have seen it needn’t be something which deprives a person of their quality of life.

Mum was lucky. She had excellent support from health specialists and a family more than happy to help.

‘However, there are hundreds of thousands of people receiving insufficient support.

‘Many are having their health put at risk and being forced into hospital or care homes against their will. This is not only a personal tragedy, it represents a huge financial burden society cannot afford. 

‘In this time of reduced budgets, there is a need to use money as efficiently as possible. Supporting people in their homes will achieve this.

‘It pains me to think so many are struggling alone. This is an unacceptable situation.’

It reveals 250,000 people with dementia are being let down by insufficient support, with many of their carers struggling to cope. 

The figure represents around half those living in the community.



The report questioned more than 2,000 carers and people with dementia and their families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most said it was ‘very important’ to those with dementia that they were able to live at home.

But half the carers said they received insufficient support, which research shows can lead to avoidable admission to hospital and early transfer to long-term care.

Those with dementia can be left bedridden, wearing unchanged incontinence pads and underfed.

One in two carers is also at risk of stress, depression and other serious illnesses because they have to struggle without support

The report found services had not expanded since 2008, despite a continuing rise in the number of people with dementia. 

It predicts spending cuts will make the situation ‘much worse’ and calls for a review into how the £2billion spent on social care each year can be used more effectively.

Three-quarters of those surveyed criticised the lack of coordination between health and social care. 

Full training on how to cope with dementia should be given to all home care workers, the report says.

It costs £121million a month to put the estimated 50,000 going into long-term care sooner than expected into care homes, which charge an average of £559 a week.

Of this, 59 per cent or £71million will be paid by the NHS and local councils, with the remaining £50million met from the savings of people with dementia and their families.

Many have to sell the family home to cover care costs – a situation already highlighted by the Mail’s Dignity For The Elderly campaign.

Better help from health and social services for people in their homes would cut the burden, says the report. 

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘It is an absolute travesty that so many people with dementia are forced to struggle without the care and support they need.

dignity for the elderly

‘The consequences of this represent an unacceptable human and financial cost. Many need help with tasks such as eating meals, washing or going to the toilet. 

‘While staying at home is not right for everyone, many people want to. Only with the right support will this be possible.’

Michelle Mitchell, of the charity Age UK, said: ‘Over the next four years, we will see the harshest cuts to local government funding for a generation and we fear the least generous councils today will set an example the rest will follow, to the detriment of vulnerable older people who rely on care at home.’ 

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: ‘This is not about spending more, it is about spending better. 

‘There would actually be savings if people were helped to stay at home for longer.’

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