‘Yet victims of other chronic conditions like heart disease receive help free on the NHS.
Two hard-hitting reports today warn that those with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease face a “dementia tax” of about £21,000 a year – the value of unpaid care provided by family and friends.
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This is because there is no real medical treatment for dementia, and most of the care needed is to help sufferers dress or eat, says the Alzheimer’s Society.
Meanwhile people with other illnesses receive expensive drugs and surgery and are looked after by expert medical teams in hospitals.
The cost of dementia to the UK, through health and social care, has hit £26billion a year, according to the society.
But people with the condition, their carers and families are forced to shoulder two-thirds of that cost. Families pay out £5.8billion annually and provide unpaid care worth £11.6billion.
Now the Alzheimer’s Society is calling on the Government to end the “artificial divide” between the health and social-care systems which “unfairly disadvantages” people with dementia.
The charity said people are being forced to pay this “dementia tax” despite having paid tax all their working lives contributing towards the NHS.
Chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “If you have another disease, like cancer or heart disease, you actually get all your treatment on the NHS.
“If you have dementia, where there is no medical intervention that cures you or treats you, most of the support you need comes from social care. And most of that comes from the individual family and the family carers or from a severely strapped social-care system.
“The dementia tax – whereby people pay their taxes when they are working to pay the NHS but when they need support for dementia they have to pay again – is alive and influencing the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.”
The charity has published two reports by experts at the London School of Economics and King’s College London. They found that about 227,000 people in the UK develop the condition every year – or one person every three minutes. They estimated that the total will soar to 850,000 by next year.
LSE professor of social policy Martin Knapp said many people with dementia and their families are essentially paying out £21,000 a year through unpaid care. “This new research exposes the staggering financial and human impact of dementia,” he added.
“It is plain to see that our social-care system is on its knees, leaving an army of tens of thousands of unpaid carers bearing the brunt.
“Families are forced to break the bank to pay for basic care for a loved one.” Janet Morrison, of charity Independent Age, said: “The reports are another stark example of how unfair and confusing our health and care system has become.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I want to make sure those with dementia, their families and carers get the help they need. We are transforming the way people pay for care, capping the amount they have to pay and providing more financial help. We are also doubling funding for research, pushing the NHS to improve diagnosis rates and post-diagnostic support, and focusing national attention on dementia.” ‘