Legal challenges facing those who care and support people with dementia

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The number of people living with dementia has risen to 44 million around the world, a rise of 22% in the past 3 years. And this figure is said to treble to 135 million by 2050.

It is reported that there are over 800,000 people in the UK with dementia and that dementia costs Britain £23 billion a year – more than cancer, stroke and heart disease combined (source: Alzheimer’s Society).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 7.7 million new cases of dementia each year with one new case reported every 4 seconds.

Most of us are, or will be touched by dementia in one way or another. One in four of us will either get, or be related to someone who has got, dementia. Sally Magnusson’s sensitive portrayal of her own mother’s decline (‘How I lost my mother to dementia’) is an example of how this disease dissolves a person’s identity. David Cameron said at the G8 summit in December that it ‘steals lives, wrecks families and breaks hearts’.

Yet, although leading nations have pledged to find ‘a cure or disease-altering therapy by 2025’ those that are afflicted with the condition now are found to be denied the care and protection they deserve.

The challenges that face the care and support authorities involved in the care of vulnerable people with this ailment is highlighted in the recent review that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted to assess the quality of dementia care in England.

It found that more than half of people with dementia are being let down by the care and health support systems.

It warned that care home residents with dementia are more likely to be admitted to hospital with avoidable infections than people without dementia and that people with dementia have:

  • longer stays in hospital;
  • more re-admissions;
  • higher mortality rate.

Findings also revealed that thousands of dementia patients are being deprived of their liberty and illegally being restrained, and that the number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard (DoLS) requests had risen by 66% in 3 years, with more than half reportedly involving dementia sufferers (Telegraph health).

The report also said that although local authorities were found generally to have good Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards system and appropriate structures and processes in place, they failed in some cases to ‘actively encourage people’s representatives or their Independent Mental Capacity Advocates to enable people to challenge authorisations’.

All these findings to date show that the real work to deal with the complex problems, challenges, care and treatment issues that dementia presents needs to begin now.

Source: Dementia and the law





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