Britain’s elderly people ‘bankrupted’ by care bills

Older people in  Britain are being drugged and robbed when they need care, claims the Alzheimer’s Society.  The charity is accusing the government of ‘daylight robbery’ with thousands facing escalating care bills unless action is taken to change the system.

It is calling for the immediate publication of a long-awaited review into the use of antipsychotics drugs and a Government green paper on adult funding of social care.

MPs last year warned of widespread abuse of drugs which should only be prescribed as ‘a last resort’ to Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Antipsychotics are not licensed for treatment of dementia but are frequently prescribed to control agitation and aggressive behaviour, making life easier for care home staff.

But there is evidence that serious side effects from the ‘chemical cosh’ can actually double the risk of users dying prematurely.

The Alzheimer’s Society claims some old people are being drugged instead of cared for

Neil  Hunt, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society,  will tell the Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists today (tues), that changes to the system are long overdue.

He said ‘It’s an outrage  that promises remain unfulfilled while people are being prescribed harmful  antipsychotic drugs and families are being bankrupted by a derelict charging  system.

‘We are headed for a Granny Crunch unless the Government acts now.  
‘The  average employed person works 1701 hours a year towards a healthy happy  retirement.  But for hundreds of thousands of older people who develop  dementia the reality is starkly different.

‘People become victims of daylight  robbery as they are forced to pay huge amounts for often poor quality care. ‘Care  homes cost five times the state pension and quality varies greatly.

‘Over 105, 000 people are inappropriately prescribed antipsychotics drugs, costing  over £60 million a year.  ‘These drugs double the risk of death, triple risk  of stroke and accelerate cognitive decline’ he added.

When the Government unveiled its dementia strategy in February, ministers said the anti-psychotics review would be published in the spring.

The current cost to the UK economy of dementia is around £17billion, with carers contributing another £6billion of unpaid help.

Figures for 2008 show the average cost of a care home per week was £540, but people with dementia are hit hardest by the charging system, said Mr Hunt. Most dementia care is means tested as it comes from local authorities, not the NHS, and swift action is needed to implement fairer charging systems, he said.

In just 17 years, more than a million  people in the UK will have dementia.  The Alzheimer’s Research Trust said the review had been promised in May – seven months later than its original publication date in October.

Chief executive Rebecca Wood said ‘The government has not recognised the urgency of halting the misuse of antipsychotic drugs. This is no time for prevarication.
‘By breaking its promise to take swift and decisive action on the misuse of antipsychotic drugs the government is failing the most vulnerable people in our society.

‘700,000 people in the UK live with dementia, and there are no easy solutions to this crisis. Much more research is needed into safer, more effective treatments for this savage condition.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health said ‘The forthcoming Green Paper for care and support will help us create a new system fit for the 21st century.