Soaring dementia care costs reach almost £1bn in Northern Ireland – and families bear the brunt

NI demenita care costs reach almost £1bnNI demenita care costs reach almost £1bn
NI demenita care costs reach almost £1bn
This Dementia Action Week Alzheimer’s Society has published new research revealing the cost of dementia care in Northern Ireland has now reached a staggering almost £1 billion per year. This figure is set to rise to more than £2 billion by 2040 unless urgent action is taken.

The charity commissioned one of the largest UK studies on the economic impact of dementia. The research was undertaken by CF (Carnall Farrar Ltd) using the records of 26,000 people, dating back seven years. It revealed that people living with dementia and their families are shouldering 63 per cent of all dementia costs and that as the disease progresses, total costs increase significantly, rising from £29,000 per year for mild dementia to £81,000 for severe dementia.

Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer and more than 24,000 people are living with the condition in Northern Ireland, yet it is estimated that a third of people affected have not received a diagnosis. Despite the evidence of benefits of an early and accurate dementia diagnosis, spending on diagnosis makes up less than 1.4 per cent of the total health care expenditure across the UK. The majority of costs come from social care (40 per cent) and unpaid care (50 per cent). The charity says the lack of an early diagnosis means that families are left to pick up the pieces and results in catastrophic costs further down the line.

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The charity reports that an ageing population means the number of the UK population with dementia will increase by 43 per cent by 2040, with the biggest increases (51 per cent) in Northern Ireland and London (53 per cent) and that urgent action is needed.

The study revealed that, in line with increasing numbers of people living with dementia, the need for unpaid care often provided by loved ones or friends will grow significantly by 2040 with 43 per cent more people expected to require unpaid care. This is a major concern when already a third of unpaid carers spend more than 100 hours caring per week, and 16 per cent had to give up work to care.

Alzheimer’s Society is calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly to increase access to early and accurate dementia diagnosis to help families avoid reaching costly, avoidable crisis point.

Ruth Barry, Alzheimer’s Society National Influencing Manager, said: “One in three people born today will develop dementia. It’s the biggest health and social care issue of our time, yet it isn’t the priority it should be amongst decision-makers. We wouldn’t accept this for any other terminal disease, we shouldn’t accept this for dementia.

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“One in three people with dementia never receive a diagnosis. They are facing dementia alone without access the vital care, support, and treatments. If we don’t address diagnosis, we have no hope of addressing the major dementia challenges we face and reducing the cost to the health service and wider economy.”

Vicky McClure MBE, actor and Alzheimer's Society ambassador, said: “More needs to be done now to support people in getting a dementia diagnosis. Dementia can absolutely devastate families in so many ways but receiving an early diagnosis can be a lifeline for people to access the vital treatment and care they desperately need.

People showing signs of dementia, those now living with the condition and the people that love and care for them are being forgotten - it has become the UK's forgotten crisis despite dementia being the UK's biggest killer.

“I've seen first-hand the challenges families face before and after a diagnosis and having supported Alzheimer's Society to push for change for many years, it breaks my heart that we're stuck in the same place with hundreds of thousands of people still undiagnosed.”

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If you’re worried about yourself, or someone close to you, then check your symptoms today using Alzheimer’s Society’s symptom checklist. Visit or call their Dementia Support Line on 0333 150 3456.