Support 110 years of independent journalism.

People with dementia cut vital care to cope with inflation

Means-testing leaves people paying for their own care, exposed to rising fees and energy bills.

By Polly Bindman

Given the daunting price of energy bills this winter, the prospect of a heated office may be a source of comfort to the millions of people returning to work after the Christmas break.

This is sadly not an option available to all: people with dementia spend, on average, 22 hours at home each day, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, making them particularly vulnerable to rising energy costs. 

According to a survey published by the charity in December on how the rising cost of living is impacting people with dementia in the UK, one in four who reported struggling with bills said they were retreating to one room to cut back on costs, while one in ten said they were reducing their social care or stopping it entirely. In the same survey participants living in sheltered housing, supported living and care or nursing homes reported average living fee rises of £23.20 a week.

Many people affected by dementia in England are reliant on the social care system, which unlike the NHS uses a means-tested financing model. As such, the Alzheimer's Society reports that two-thirds of dementia care costs in England are borne by people with dementia and their families.

Thanks to its strict means-testing threshold for care, even before the pandemic introduced additional pressures to the service England was dubbed by Age UK the "poor man" of developed countries when it comes to long-term care. Unlike other countries such as Germany, which provides a basic level of universal support, England has required people with savings or assets totalling above £23,250 to pay the full costs of their long-term care since 2010.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[See also: Cornwall Insight’s Gareth Miller: “Next winter is going to be really challenging”]

This limit has remained stagnant, failing to keep up with inflation. As such, in 2021 it was approximately £5,000 lower than it would have been had it kept up with rising prices. With today’s soaring inflation, the difference would be even starker.

In 2025 the limit is due to rise substantially to £100,000 as part of measures first announced by Boris Johnson’s government in 2021. They were supposed to come into force in October 2023 but Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has delayed them by two years.

The delay affects other social care reforms. such as an £86,000 limit on what people can contribute to their own care throughout their lifetime, which Kate Lee, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, calls the “first step towards tackling crippling care costs, at a time when people with dementia are facing even bigger bills”.

While the estimated 900,000 people with dementia in the UK is expected to rise to one million by 2025, increasing demand for care services is not being matched by supply. The vacancy rate of jobs in social care is rising. This has a knock-on effect on the NHS as a whole, as up to one in three hospital beds in the UK are reportedly occupied by people waiting to be discharged into care.

The steady rise in social care vacancies since 2012 underscores the fact that the present lack of staff is not a blip caused by the pandemic. It is due to longstanding structural problems that require urgent funding to bring the sector back from the brink of collapse.

[See also: The legislative battles to watch in 2023]

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action

Topics in this article : , ,