Dr. Hilda Hayo, our CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse recently spoke to Express.co.uk for an exclusive interview on why dementia care needs an urgent overhaul.
The cost of dementia care for UK families currently stands at an eye-watering £11.6 billion.
Shockingly, 40% of those living with dementia also live with significant depression and anxiety. To put the battle the country has ahead into perspective, there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK currently.
That figure is set to rise to over 1 million in the next seven years.
Dr Hilda Hayo, Chief Admiral Nurse and CEO at Dementia UK, explained Britain has a ticking time bomb awaiting social services – in a time of cuts and reduced services.
Dr Hayo, who specialised in young onset dementia for over 20 years, now works with families going through the toughest and most complex cases of dementia to help them understand the condition and anticipate the future.
When asked how she believes the NHS is coping with dementia care demands, Dr Hayo said the system was facing “significant difficulties”.
The NHS and the social care system overall are facing significant difficulties with reducing resources
She told Express.co.uk: “The NHS and the social care system overall are facing significant difficulties with reducing resources. This comes at a time when there is a growing number of older people living with multiple health problems, including dementia.
“Our Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline receives frequent calls from families in distress because they are struggling to find local services to support them. This can lead to all sorts of issues: the family carer experiencing health problems themselves; or even the person with dementia being admitted to hospital or long term care, far earlier than they might otherwise need to.
“This in turn increases the pressure on the NHS and social care resources.”
Dementia UK describes dementia as an “umbrella term” for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain.
The five most common types of dementia are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
It’s reported 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia – with that figure set to grow significantly.
Despite these difficulties, with your support, we can be there for families facing dementia.
“The current system needs an overhaul”
Will the government’s ‘money pot’ run out soon if nothing’s done to help? Dr Hayo said: “The current system of health and social care for dementia needs an urgent overhaul. The current funding model does not work effectively for the growing population of people who have multiple health and social care needs.
“Health and social care should be combined. This would stop duplication, where both systems are trying to provide care, or the alternative, whereby the person falls through the net while services argue whether the person’s needs are social or heath care related.
“As unpalatable as it might be for the population of the UK, we need to have a taxation system that collects money for the NHS and social care which is ring-fenced for service delivery.
“This will need to be across the age range rather than expecting one generation to pay for another.”
Current predictions estimate over 2 million Britons will be living with a form of dementia by 2051. With 65 million Britons living in the UK currently that calculates at roughly 3 per cent of the nation needing help to live with dementia in 30 years’ time.
In terms of social impact, where there is a person living with dementia, usually there is a loved-one looking after that person.
The toll on this carer is great and, often, can go under the radar in society. Dr Hayo explained the important thing a person looking after someone living with dementia can do is to remember to look after themselves. Chief Admiral Nurse
She added: “If you get ill, you won’t be able to look after them anymore. Caring for someone can be a 24/7 job, so it can feel impossible to carve out some time for yourself.
“But it’s worth asking your friends and family if they can help, and there are respite services that might be able to give you a break.
“If you are visiting a friend or relative who has dementia, and struggles to follow the conversation, try speaking in short sentences and keeping eye contact with the person.”
She explained, when visiting someone with dementia, it can be useful to try to ‘enter into their world’ and speak about whatever it is they are saying, rather than trying to correct them, or telling them something they might not follow.
Dr Hayo explained: “If all of the caring is falling to one person, ask if you can help. Sitting with the person with dementia for a while can give the main carer time to go out, have a bath or just be by themselves. This helps them recharge their batteries and can make all the difference.
“If someone is caring for someone who requires full time attention, think about offering help with buying groceries or looking after the home for them.
“If things seem to be getting on top of them, there might be respite help available. Phone our Helpline or speak to your local council to see what there is in your area.”
Anyone who has questions or concerns about dementia, including asking about local respite services, or tips for better communication, can contact the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678.