Care cost legal experts have backed calls for a long-term solution to a crisis which will see people with dementia and their families pay out £22 billion in the UK.
Unlike conditions such as heart disease or cancer, where the service is provided by the NHS and is cost free, people living with dementia need to fund their own care. An estimated 7,500 people in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, 73,500 in the West Midlands and 9,500 in Worcestershire are affected by dementia.
Organisations including Age UK, older people’s charity Independent Care, Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society have called for a long-term solution to problems in social care.
Lawyers at FBC Manby Bowdler, who work with families to plan for future care and associated costs, back those calls and said a combination of a postponed cap on care fees and rising costs of care because of the cost-of-living crisis had affected thousands of vulnerable people in the region.
Partner Michelle Monnes-Thomas, who heads the firm’s Community Care team in Wolverhampton, said: “It is estimated that one million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025, so this is not a problem which is just going to go away.
“Dementia is an umbrella term for more than 200 specific conditions, but all involve damage to the normal working of neurones in the brain. If those patients had acquired their brain injury through an accident, or a brain tumour, their care would be entirely paid for by the NHS.
“It seems manifestly unfair that so many people risk losing their homes and savings to pay for care, just because their brain damage presents with cognitive symptoms first.
“The government’s much-heralded cap on care costs did offer a bit of hope to patients and their families, but that has now been put on hold until 2025 at the earliest – that will be too late for many people with dementia now.”
Michelle said the problem was being compounded by the economic situation, which was forcing care providers to increase fees to cover the rising cost of energy, food and salaries. Local councils, which can pay for or make a contribution to care costs depending on personal assets, are also having their budgets squeezed.
Experts at FBC Manby Bowdler stressed that there were some steps people with dementia, and their families, could take to protect some of their assets from being swallowed up in care costs.
Partner Carina Kervin, who heads the firm’s Community Care team in Shropshire, said: “Postponing the care cap means more people are at risk from having to sell their homes and use most of their savings to pay for their care.
“It is essential that people get the right legal advice to protect themselves. For example, preparing your will correctly can avoid your home being sold to pay for care fees, so something will be left to pass on to your loved ones.
“A relatively small investment in good advice now could save thousands of pounds in the future.”
The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that two-thirds (£22.2 billion) of the cost of dementia is paid by people with dementia and their families, either in the value of unpaid care (£13.9 billion) or in paying for private social care.
Michelle added: “The care cap delay will inevitably cause more uncertainty, stress and upset to those who need care, as well as their families. Many will have to lose large parts of their estates as the thresholds are going to remain in place, and it will mean that less can potentially be passed to their loved ones than they wish.
“We are an ageing population and the care issue just keeps being neglected and pushed back. Those who require care are being penalised unfairly.”
To find out more about making a will and planning for future care fees, please contact either Michelle in Wolverhampton or Carina in Shropshire for further help.