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Ageing population with care needs set to grow by 25% within a decade

The number of people aged over 65 years needing care could reach 2.8 million by 2025 in England and Wales, according to a study.

This represents an increase of 25% from 2015 (equivalent to an additional 560000 people) over a decade, and will massively increase the burden of disability.

The study in the The Lancet Public Health Journal calls for better disease prevention policies targeting poor diet, smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure and physical inactivity, as well as increased investment in health and social care.

The study illustrates the huge challenges looming over the health system as the population continues to age.

The authors warn that if the shortage of caregivers and the poor state of social care is not addressed now, the impact on people with lower incomes unable to live independently will increase.

Currently, 40% of the national cost of long-term care is paid by the savings and incomes of affected individuals and their families.

“The societal, economic, and public health implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings draw attention to the scale of societal costs associated with disability in the coming decade,” said lead author Dr Maria Guzman-Castillo, University of Liverpool.

“Spending on long-term care will need to increase considerably by 2025, which has serious implications for a cash strapped and overburdened NHS and an under-resourced social care system. More cost-effective health and social care provision will be needed, such as increased availability of institutional care, and better financial support – such as tax allowances or cash benefits – for family members providing informal and home care.”

The study modelled future trends in disability and life expectancy in England and Wales between 2015-2025 by estimating future rates of cardiovascular disease, dementia and other diseases and the functional disability they may cause (difficulty with one or more activities of daily living, such getting out of bed, bathing, dressing or eating).

The new figures follow a furore over the Conservative manifesto and Theresa May’s U-turn on social care this week. In a bid to keep the costs of care down, the manifesto said those needing care at home would have to pay until they had £100,000 in savings left, including the cost of their home.

After accusations that the Conservatives were imposing a “dementia tax”, May promised a cap on the amount any person would pay for care – although without specifying what the cap would be.

Estimates suggest that the number of people aged over 65 will increase by almost a fifth (19%) – from 10.4 million people in 2015 to 12.4 million people in 2025.

For people aged 65 in 2025, life expectancy is projected to increase by 1.7 years to 86.8 years, but a quarter of later life is likely to be spent with disability (5.4 years after age 65).

Overall, dementia represents the biggest growing cause of disability and rates are predicted to increase by 49% in people aged 65 or over between 2015-2025 – meaning that 699,000 people will have dementia care needs in 2025 (compared to 468000 in 2015).

Read more on the study.

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