It’s hard watching a loved one suffer with any illness but witnessing the onset of dementia may be hardest of all.
The term “dementia” describes symptoms that include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problemsolving and language. Changes are small at first but usually affect daily life and can lead to mood and behaviour changes.
In the UK, one person develops dementia every three minutes with estimates suggesting over one million will be living with it by 2025. That makes it one of our greatest challenges, yet funding for dementia research is poor when compared to other conditions.
As it develops, people often need help with activities, like washing, dressing and shopping. The NHS tends to opt out at this stage and leave them reliant on social care for which they face huge costs.
Dementia sufferers can end up spending £100,000 on their care. Of the £26 billion per year spent on dementia, two thirds is shouldered by those affected and their families.
Many are forced to move to residential care with the family home being sold to meet the costs.
Families seeking help for loved ones who may have become doubly incontinent, incapable of communicating verbally and unable to feed or dress themselves are regularly denied support.
It wouldn’t happen if the illness was cancer or a brain tumour.
Where council support is obtained, it usually doesn’t cover the cost of the most basic care home fees and families can find themselves paying around £500 per week for care.
None of this is addressed by Boris Johnson’s National Insurance rise or his so-called plan for social care. I know the demands on our NHS are enormous and its budget has been shredded over 10 years but dementia sufferers deserve better.
It’s an illness like any other. Our health service is supposed to be available, free at the point of need, from the cradle to the grave.
This Government needs to urgently address the unfair burdens on the families of those suffering this condition and increase research funding into this illness.
That’s one kind of levelling up that would make a real difference.