With prices rising and temperatures plunging, people affected by dementia in Cornwall are facing especially challenging times over the festive season and beyond.
Alzheimer’s Society has warned that, as the scale of the cost of living crisis widens, there is growing evidence those with the condition, including an estimated 10,060 in Cornwall & Scilly are being hit hard.
A recent survey by the charity revealed many people with dementia spend an average of 22 hours a day at home, leaving them vulnerable to soaring energy costs.
Meanwhile, fees have risen on average £1,200 a year for residential care, home care and day care.
But advice, information and support are available for those struggling, either through the Society’s website or by calling its Dementia Support Line.
Teresa Greenaway, a Dementia Adviser for the charity in the South West, said: “People affected by dementia have told us the cost of living crisis is having a real impact on their lives.
“The fact so many people with dementia are at home for most of the day is also driving up costs. As a result of their condition, they may forget to turn off taps, lights and heating. Some people with dementia may experience incontinence too, meaning they have to use washing machines and tumble dryers more frequently.”
There is a wealth of information on Alzheimer’s Society’s website, including tips and advice on coping with the cost of living crisis.
Here are some of the key factors to consider.
- Are you claiming everything you’re entitled to?
Claiming benefits such as Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance or Carer’s Allowance can make a big financial difference. This could include eligibility to cost of living payments and help with NHS costs. And while carers over state pension age won’t usually qualify for Carer’s Allowance, due to it overlapping with their state pension, they might not be aware they can get an extra £38.85 a week in their pension credit. Alzheimer’s Society’s website includes information about how to check what benefits you may be entitled to, including Winter Fuel Payments, Cold Weather Payments and the Warm Home Discount.
- Is your house as energy efficient as it could be?
Memory loss can mean taps, heating and lights can get left on, leading to increased costs. Simple things like leaving a reminder note next to the switch or appliance may help – or assistive technology, such as pre-recorded messages that are triggered when you leave a room. Push-down taps, sensor lights and LED bulbs could also be a great money saving option in the long term. People living with dementia, who may have high water usage due to managing incontinence, could also benefit from the ‘WaterSure’ scheme which, for those eligible, limits the amount they have to pay. Information about the scheme, and links to specialist organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust and Money Saving Expert, are on the Society’s website.
- Are you worried about paying for homecare?
Paying for support to remain independent can be costly, but people on low incomes who have limited savings and assets could be eligible for local authority funding towards homecare bills. There would need to be a financial assessment, but as part of this the local authority must leave you enough money to pay for any disability-related expenditure and certain housing costs. Once these are paid, they must also leave you with your Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG). This is the amount of income needed for basic living costs such as food, utility bills and insurance.
- Are you looking after your own wellbeing?
Even if you are managing financially, the constant news cycle about the rising cost of living may affect your mental health. It may help to chat to a friend or other people affected by dementia on Alzheimer’s Society’s online community Talking Point. If you are finding everything too much, try talking to your GP. They may be able to help or refer you to a specialist for ‘talking therapy’.
- Are you taking steps to avoid or reduce loneliness?
It’s normal to feel lonely sometimes. However, if you don’t have people around you, or find it hard to stay in touch, you may start to feel lonely more often. Loneliness can make you feel less like doing things, which can make you feel more isolated. Ultimately, this can lead to depression. It helps to stay active, even when you don’t feel like doing anything. It can be difficult to motivate yourself at times, but it’s worth making an effort to do something you enjoy such as a hobby, going for a walk, or catching up with friends, even if it’s just for a short while.
Teresa Greenaway added: “No one should have to face dementia alone. We want everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, you can turn to us for practical advice, emotional support, and guidance for the best next step.
If you’re affected by dementia and the cost of living call Alzheimer’s Society’s support line on 0333 150 3456 or visit alzheimers.org.uk/costofliving