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Dementia carers ‘close to breaking point’

Charities say better support will save costs in both short and long term

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

People caring for family members with dementia are desperate for more support from health and social care services, the Dementia Action Alliance has found. It is calling for “a radically improved package of support” for the more than half a million carers taking on the daily challenges of caring for someone with dementia.

The DAA, a coalition of 700 charities and other bodies, says many carers are “close to breaking point” because of the huge stresses involved in caring with too little practical or emotional support. In The Carers’ Call to Action, which it is launching this morning at its annual conference, the DAA demands that carers of people with dementia should have the right to have their needs recognised; be recognised as partners in care; have access to expert advice; have their changing needs monitored; and be able to access good quality care. It is asking all those running health and social services, including all 152 of the new Health and Wellbeing Boards in England, to sign up to these principles.

The DAA points out that this also makes economic sense. It says that in England there are already about 670,000 people with dementia, and that this number is expected to double over the next 30 years. It says: “At present over half a million people act as primary carers for people with dementia … Leaving carers to cope by themselves, with the enormous pressures they face as a result, is a false economy resulting in far greater long-term costs.”

DAA spokesperson Rachel Niblock explained: “Providing timely information and ongoing support for carers will mean the state can continue to save money in the short term and reduce the need for much more expensive care for people with dementia from the NHS and social services. But it also saves money in another way because carers who are left to fend for themselves without support often become unwell as a result of the exceptional strain experienced in caring for somebody with dementia.”

She added: “The Prime Ministers’ Challenge on Dementia highlighted that carers of people with dementia save the UK £7bn a year, and that’s going to increase dramatically as the number of people with dementia rises. The health service simply couldn’t cope with the consequences if carers reach breaking point – so putting in the right support for them is essential.”

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