Experts say families must work out how they would pay for care costs, and take steps to protect loved ones against failing health. Dementia affects 850,000 today, a figure that will top one million by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. As well as the horror of losing mental capacity, many struggle to manage their own finances, with one in seven falling victim to financial abuse.
The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, as more than eight out of 10 dementia sufferers have declined due to seeing fewer people.
It has also brought home the failures in our social care system. More than 28,000 relying on social care at home have died in England and Scotland, with excess deaths in some areas doubling or trebling as Covid interrupts care services.
Currently, local authorities will only pay for social care once someone’s assets, including the value of their home, fall below £23,250 in England.
Later life campaigner Ros Altmann slammed this “draconian” means test: “While taxpayers cover all the costs for millionaires with cancer who are treated on the NHS, widows with dementia lose their life savings to pay for their care.”
This is Dementia Action Week and experts say families must be proactive.
Louise Higham, financial planning director at Tilney, is urging people to consider how to pay for long-term care: “Whatever changes the Government eventually introduces, it is unlikely to provide the cover that many would want or need.”
Even if the Government did introduce a cap on total care costs, this may exclude extras such as accommodation and personal care. “Consider how to fund care when making gifts and inheritance tax planning,” she said.
Hargreaves Lansdown personal finance analyst Sarah Coles said protecting someone with dementia is far easier if families draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which allows named individuals to make financial and health decisions on their behalf: “If you delay setting one up until their dementia has progressed, it may be too late.”
An LPA also protects family members from false accusations of theft, where a dementia sufferer forgets where they left their wallet: “You help manage their money, track what they withdraw and how much they spend.
“Paying bills multiple times, or not at all, is another worry. “Help them sort direct debits and automate payments, and stop them buying things they don’t need.
“Dementia sufferers may not want to admit they cannot remember their PIN, or share it with the wrong people.
“If concerned, arrange for them to have a card that lets them spend with their signature,” Coles said.Defend against scammers with a call blocker, and cut down junk mail and nuisance calls by signing up to telephone and mailing preference services.