ALZHEIMER’S SOCIETY CYMRU calls for improved quality in social care to allow people with dementia to stay at home for longer 

New figures released today from Alzheimer’s Society have laid bare worrying shortcomings in the quality of home care provided to people living with dementia.

The charity’s findings reveal how many family members struggle to access quality care for loved ones with the condition.

Almost a third (31%) of family carers reported home visits from care workers were too short..   As a result, people with dementia were left feeling ‘disorientated and confused’ and having to choose between care and a wash.

Shockingly, estimates suggest that nearly 8,000 carers across the UK felt the need to supervise visits by professionals because they were concerned about poor or inadequate dementia training.

The findings, based on people’s experiences of accessing care in the spring, come as Alzheimer’s Society ramps up the pressure on the Government ahead of the spending review and Autumn budget on 27 October.

The charity is calling for the Welsh Government to properly fund social care in order to provide high level care to everyone in need in Wales.

There are around 50,000 people living with dementia in Wales.

They have been the worst hit by the pandemic, accounting for one in four deaths from coronavirus, with excess deaths from dementia in the community up by 65% over the same period.

The charity’s survey findings are released following the Welsh election in May, in which all four parties elected to the Senedd promised to reform social care.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Labour Government’s recent announcement of £48million funding for social care shows some willingness to address the issue, but according to the charity is ‘a drop in the ocean of the reform that is actually needed.’

Last month, we saw a motion passed in the Senedd, noting the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with and affected by dementia in Wales, as well as the importance of unpaid carers in ensuring that the social care system in Wales was able to operate during the pandemic. Across all four parties, there is agreement that the system, as it stands, together with Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, does not deliver for people affected by dementia in Wales, and that there is a need for reform.

Alzheimer’s Society’s investigation found a third of people affected by dementia haven’t been getting the support they need,  with 82% of those who felt this saying they believed their loved ones with dementia could have stayed at home longer if they’d had more support6.

Some 44% of these respondents felt they could have delayed a loved one going into a care home for at least a year, which would have massively eased the strain on the care home sector.

Family carers have borne the brunt of the failing system, with most feeling completely exhausted, reporting a decline in their mental or physical health due to increased pressures.

The recent figures also reveal deepening pressures, with 20% of family carers reporting battles to access the care they need, 12% being refused breaks from care9 and 5% being completely refused professional home care.

Five months after the Welsh election, with little action having been taken, Alzheimer’s Society Cymru is calling on the Government to put people affected by dementia at the heart of their social care plans and increase the access and quality of care, with a clear timetable for long-term reform which considers funding. 

By far the majority of social care users are people with dementia – about 60% of those using home care. When delivered well, home care allows people to stay in a place they know and love for as long as possible, surrounded by those who know and love them the most.

However, two thirds of professional carers do not have any form of dementia training and 43% of homecare workers are asking for more dementia training.

Without this vital training, carers fail to understand the unique nature of dementia or the impact of the symptoms, and cannot deliver person-centred, quality care in the time constraints they are working under – leaving families battling a broken system to get the quality care for their loved ones.

Sue Phelps, Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, Country Director said: “Families have been struggling to get the care they need over the tough spring months of the pandemic, losing potential years at home with their loved ones. No one should have to choose between care and a wash during a visit. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can cure the care system, if the Welsh Government puts dementia at the heart of their plans to boost the quality of the system.

“The social care sector in Wales is on its knees, with local authorities calling on unpaid carers to deliver more care with care providers actively handing back contracts due to a lack of staff. This cannot be allowed to continue, as it adds undue pressure to those who worked, and are working, the hardest to deliver care for people living with dementia in Wales.

“People with dementia must get high quality, accessible social care, free at the point of use like the NHS – giving every person with dementia the quality care they deserve and preventing devoted family carers being forced to plug the gaps.”

Anyone can join Alzheimer’s Society’s Cure the Care System campaign for quality social care by visiting alzheimers.org.uk/curethecaresystem