In a previous post, we talked about the ageing population in the UK and the implications it has on housing and opportunity it offers property investors. One of the main issues afflicting the ageing population in the UK is dementia — a crippling disease that is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales. Caring for dementia patients is not a walk in the park. It requires proper care housing — something that is currently critically undersupplied in the UK. By 2035, some 100,000 dementia sufferers will have no beds.
Maureen: a strong woman to a man named Michael. They have been married for 56 years and blessed with two daughters, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Life was beautiful until, one day in 2011, Michael was diagnosed with mixed dementia. Mixed dementia is a condition where changes representing more than one type of dementia occur simultaneously in the brain.
Things go upside down for Maureen. Michael no longer recognises Maureen, the one that he used to embrace. He began to think that he was cheating on his own wife whenever he and Maureen were together.
However, Maureen patiently took care of him, until she decided to send him to a care home in 2016 so that Michael will get proper treatment.
“Caring for someone with dementia is like living on a knife’s edge; it is so unpredictable and certainly has its challenges. You go through so many mixed emotions: pity, anger, frustration and even despair,” said Maureen.
In Sheila’s case, things went from bad to worse. She remained in denial when her husband, John, was diagnosed with dementia until one night when he tried to push her down the stairs. Luckily, Sheila managed to escape.
Sheila drove around the village, her eyes blinded by tears. She could not accept that her husband had attacked her.
“When I returned, John began pelting me with fruit. I tried to ring Social Services but all I got was an answerphone. So, in desperation, I called the police. By the time they finally arrived, John was calm and smiling as though nothing had happened,” said Sheila, who, for the sake of her safety, had to send John to a care home for better supervision.
These are true accounts of what has happened among dementia patients and their loved ones.
Dementia haunts England
Dementia is a neurological disorder that affects the human brain. Dementia, depending on its type, can affect people in many ways, changing everyday life physically, emotionally and psychologically
Dementia is now a common disease in the UK — in fact, it is now the biggest cause of death in England and Wales, surpassing heart disease. Research shows that from 2011 to 2016, there has been a 56% rise in the number of people diagnosed with dementia in the UK.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, there are now 532,162 dementia patients in the UK. England alone has the highest number of patients, constituting approximately 84% (451,561)of UK’s total number of dementia sufferers.
This number will increase in the future as the UK’s ageing population continues expanding every year.
Undersupply: thousands of dementia patients will end their lives ‘alone’
Dementia has become a real issue in the UK, both in the urban or rural areas.
Meanwhile, the whole country faces a chronic undersupply of care home even as demand escalates.
The Alzheimer’s Society predicts that the gulf between demand and supply for care home beds in England alone will reach 30,000 by 2022. This number is estimated to increase to 100,000 by 2035.
It means that thousands of vulnerable elderly people with dementia will end their lives ‘deserted and alone’ if this problem remains unsolved, warned Alzheimer’s Society chief, Jeremy Hughes, adding that it may become a ‘norm’ for care homes to cherry-pick the residents and fend off those with severe dementia.
To make matters worse, the British government has, without reason, decided to reschedule the publication of a long-awaited Green Paper that sets out plans for how to improve care, support and funding for the elderly.
The publication of the Green Paper, originally earmarked for summer 2017, has been postponed several times. It has now been further delayed to the autumn of 2018.
Jeremy Hunt, the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said, “Whilst the long-term funding profile of the social care system will not be settled until the spending review, we will publish the social care Green Paper ahead of that.
“However, because we want to integrate plans for social care with the new NHS plan, it does not make sense to publish it before the NHS plan has even been drafted. So we now intend to publish the social care Green Paper in the autumn around the same time as the NHS plan.”
In June 2018, Theresa May, the Prime Minister announced additional annual increases in funding for the NHS of 3.4% per annum, amounting to an extra £20.5 billion a year by the 2023/24 financial year. This will include the expenses for dementia patients.
The government also noted that a number of proposals will be set up to ensure the dementia people will live healthier, longer and more independent lives, instead of isolated and lonely.
Unfortunately, if things remain the way they are, with the supply of adequate housing remaining in the negative, and the continual postponement of the Green Paper, thousands of vulnerable older people with dementia will end their lives ‘isolated and alone’.
Thus, it is left to the private sector to help develop more care homes to address the serious undersupply in the UK. Here, care homes investors have an investment opportunity which gives them a chance to not only profit their pockets, but at the same time, do something good for the society, especially for the elderly, so that they have dignity in the last few years of their lives.