Caring for a person living with dementia: identifying and assessing a carer's needs
As the population ages and so do the numbers of people with dementia, there will also be an increase in the number of unpaid family carers. Estimates suggest that one in three of us will become a carer for someone with dementia during our lifetime, some caring for more than one person diagnosed with dementia in their family. There are currently over 700 000 people in the UK acting as primary unpaid carers for people with dementia, all of whom make a substantial contribution, both financially and physically, to their care and support. Carers of people with dementia can experience high levels of carer burden and distress as well poor health and wellbeing due to their caring roles. However, they can sometimes be less than visible to health and social care services as they may not identify themselves as carers or their needs may not be easily recognised which leaves them at risk. Identifying people in caring roles and assessing their needs are the first two steps in supporting them. Community nurses are well placed to do this within their roles.
There are estimated to be 944 000 people living with dementia in the UK and it is estimated this will increase to 1 million people by 2025 (Wittenberg et al, 2019). Whilst increasing age is considered the most significant risk factor to developing dementia in later life (Livingston et al, 2020), a person can develop dementia at any age, especially where the onset is in a person under the age of 65 years (Kuruppu and Matthews, 2013). Of the total number of people living with dementia in the UK, an estimated 70 800 will have young onset dementia, where the onset of their symptoms will occur under the age of 65 years (Carter et al, 2022).
The cost of dementia care is expected to almost triple, increasing from £15.7 billion in 2019 to over £45 billion by 2040 (Wittenberg et al, 2019). Wittenberg and colleagues (2019) attributed 14% of the total cost to healthcare, 45% as social care costs, 1% as other costs. However, a staggering 40% was attributed to unpaid care—provided by families, friends and supporters of a person living with dementia.
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