Dementia: Britain’s hidden army of ‘unsupported’ carers

Two-thirds of a million people are dedicating their lives to caring for people with dementia, according to a new report highlighting the hidden cost of the disease on society.

Most are looking after husbands, wives, mothers, fathers or friends on a one-to-one basis, many with little support from elsewhere.

According to the survey, by The Alzheimer’s Society, Britain’s unseen army of 670,000 dementia carers is saving the country £8 billion a year.

But half of dementia sufferers thought their carers did not receive adequate support, found the charity.

It launched the report, Dementia 2012, as the Prime Minister promised to double annual research funding into the condition to £66 million by 2015.

The disease is thought to affect around 800,000 people across the UK, but only four in 10 people with dementia ever receive a formal diagnosis meaning many of them – and their carers – struggle on with no official support.

Attending a meeting organised by the charity in London on Monday morning, Mr Cameron said politicians, doctors and campaigners needed to “shout quite loudly” if diagnosis rates were to improve.

He said low diagnosis rates could not be blamed solely on GPs, but was also down to a poor understanding of the condition in society.

He said: “The reason for raising awareness is a lot of people getting dementia, or their family, are living with the myth that this is part of ageing and ‘There’s nothing that I can do about it’. We need to shout quite loudly that that is not the case.”

Britain had to “get rid of the stigma of dementia”, he added.

With one in three people likely to develop dementia over the course of their lifetime, the Government has also announced it intends to start routine hospital screening.

Hospitals in England will be expected to screen all those over 75 who are admitted as emergencies. Those who screen nine in 10 or more will be eligible for payment from a new £54 million Department of Health fund.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said there was “a moral imperative” to improve diagnosis, by making “every contact people have with the NHS count”.

Dementia was a bigger concern for people even than cancer, he said.

He added: “We are increasingly able to support people with early diagnosis to sustain their memory and their overall mental agility. We do have therapies which will delay the onset and reduce the symptoms.”

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