Record numbers of people with dementia in care homes

Published 26 February 2013

Eighty per cent of people living in care homes – more than ever thought before - have either dementia or severe memory problems according to a new Alzheimer's Society report published today.

However, while excellent care exists, less than half of these 322,000 people are enjoying a good quality of life.

'Low Expectations' finds evidence of a deep-seated pessimism about life in care homes. Only 41 per cent of relatives surveyed by Alzheimer’s Society reported that their loved ones enjoyed good quality of life. Despite this, three quarters (74 per cent) of relatives would recommend their family member’s care home.

The report also reveals the severe image crisis facing the care sector. According to a YouGov public poll commissioned by the charity, 70 per cent of UK adults say they would be fairly or very scared of going into a care home. In addition, two thirds (64 per cent) do not feel the sector is doing enough to tackle abuse in care homes. The charity argues that public attitudes and scepticism about whether people with dementia enjoy a good quality of life in a care home is leading to a failure to drive up standards of care. Alzheimer’s Society is calling on Government and care homes to work together to lift expectations and to strengthen existing minimum standards to boost quality of life.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer's Society, said:

'When you walk into an excellent care home it's full of warmth, activities and interaction. But between these best examples and the worst, which often dominate headlines, there is a forgotten scandal of people with dementia who are failed and left living a life that can only be described as 'OK'.

'Society has such low expectations of care homes that people are settling for average. Throughout our lives we demand the best for ourselves and our children. Why do we expect less for our parents? We need Government and care homes to work together to lift up expectations so people know they have the right to demand the best.'

In addition, 'Low Expectations' finds that:

  • Less than a third (30 per cent) of the public believe people with dementia are treated well in care homes.
  • The main factor (48 per cent) the general public would look for in choosing a care home is training of staff.
  • Less than half (44 per cent) of relatives said opportunities for activities in their relatives' care home were good.
  • Over 9.3 million UK adults (19 per cent) know someone with dementia in a care home*.
  • Alzheimer's Society has this year launched new tools to help improve quality of life for people with dementia in care homes. A new Handy Guide to Selecting a Care Home is designed to help relatives making the difficult decision on which care home to choose. The leaflet This is Me, which aims to support people with dementia in an unfamiliar place and help care staff deliver good quality care, has recently been rolled out in care homes for the first time.
Kevin Whately, actor and Alzheimer's Society Ambassador, said:

'My mum had dementia and spent the last months of her life in a care home. I’m lucky that when it came to choosing a care home for her we were able to find an excellent home, but we had to go through hell to find it. I’ve seen some amazing examples of care across the country but I’ve also seen places I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

'It shouldn’t be this way. The 800,000 people with dementia in the UK should be able to count on the highest-quality care across the board, wherever they are.'

Karen Weech, 42, whose mother lives with dementia in a care home said:

'Our first experience of care was terrible. Without any experience, we didn't know what to look for and didn't have anything to compare the home to so our expectations were low.

'Now things are much different. The home mum lives in is fantastic, staff go above and beyond to make her life better. It's important that people realise that it doesn't have to be negative or drab and realise that they have the right to expect the best from care homes.'


-Ends-

Notes to editors:

  • 'Low Expectations: Attitudes on choice, care and community for people with dementia in care homes' is available at alzheimers.org.uk/lowexpectations
  • As part of 'Low Expectations', Alzheimer's Society surveyed 1139 family members, carers and former carers of people with dementia. All figures attributed to relatives or carers are drawn from this survey.
  • Figures relating to the general public are from a survey commissioned by Alzheimer's Society and conducted by YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2060 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11 - 13 December 2012. 
  • 9.3million UK adults know someone with dementia in a care home. This figure is based on 19 per cent of British adults answering that they know someone with dementia in a care home for older people. There were 49,264,545 adults in the United Kingdom in mid-2011 * (source: Office of National Statistics, Scottish Statistical Authority and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Authority).
  • One in three people over 65 will develop with dementia
  • Alzheimer's Society research shows that 800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In less than ten years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051
  • Alzheimer's Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them
  • Alzheimer's Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer's Society has a plan to deal with dementia. Help us support people to live well today and fight for a world without dementia tomorrow. We rely on voluntary donations to continue our vital work. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer’s Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0300 222 11 22 or visit alzheimers.org.uk

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