Charity warn of ‘potentially disastrous’ impact of elderly cutting back on care to save money

A significant proportion of elderly people plan to cut back on the amount of money they spend on care amid the cost-of-living crisis, a new poll suggests.

Age UK said that there could be impacts on the health service after a new poll found that one in 10 over 60s across the UK were planning to reduce or stop the care they receive because they cannot afford the cost.

The charity said that care needs are “essential” in keeping people fit and well.

Meanwhile, its new poll of 1,600 people over the age of 60 found that 22% were planning on cutting back on non-prescription medicines or specialist foods.

One elderly patient told the charity: “Sometimes I don’t take my painkillers or eye drops because they are too expensive. I cannot afford them.”

And 15% have already started or are planning to reduce the number of meals they eat every day.

Age UK has called for Government action ahead of the Autumn fiscal statement.

One person told the charity: “I have widespread arthritis and am virtually house bound and I feel the cold.

“If heating costs increase as predicted, along with increase in food bills, I’m not going to be able to pay my bills… I’ll have to cut back on everything – I just don’t know how I will cope.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It is alarming that well over a million older people are already cutting back or stopping their social care across the UK, or expect to do so in the months to come, because they can’t afford the cost.

“This is potentially disastrous because if you are an older person with care needs, this support is not a ‘nice to have’ but essential in enabling you to stay fit and well.

“Cutting back or stopping care in this situation threatens to pile extra pressure on the NHS, our hospitals especially, as it greatly increases the chances of serious ill health and injury.

“Our survey findings that even greater numbers of older people are cutting back or stopping medications or specialist food or expecting to do so, or skipping meals or expecting to do so, because of money worries, only add to our concerns.

“Without the care they require, frail and unwell older people are more likely to fall, become malnourished and dehydrated, fail to take their medication, and become seriously ill because an emerging health problem will not be noticed early enough to nip it in the bud.

“Care workers are the only visitors many such older people receive each day, and they play a vital role in sustaining their mental and physical health.

“Without them, it’s inevitable that some older people will suffer, invisible and unseen, behind closed doors.”

She added: “The cost-of-living crisis has made everyday purchases much more expensive and many older people living on low and modest incomes are finding it impossible to cope, with worse likely to come as they need their heating on more during the chilly weather.

“It’s terrible that we have reached a position in which the best financial option for some older people is to forego the care and support they rely on, or indeed a square meal or the pain killing gel that makes their knee pain bearable, but high prices over the coming months mean we can only see many more finding themselves facing this predicament.

“That’s why the Government must restore the triple lock and raise both benefits and social care funding in line with inflation at next week’s Fiscal Statement. There’s no doubt that not to do so would be a false economy so far as the NHS is concerned, as well as severely jeopardising older people’s health.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Social care is a top priority and we are committed to bolstering the workforce and protecting people from unpredictable care costs – backed by £5.4 billion.

“To help with rising costs, we have provided at least an extra £1,200 in cost-of-living support to eight million of the most vulnerable households, reversed the rise in national insurance contributions, and made changes to universal credit to help working households keep more of what they earn.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Freepik.