MORE THAN a million older people are being left “stranded” as funding cuts see them struggling to cope with basic tasks such as getting out of bed, washing and dressing with no help, a charity has warned today.
Age UK is calling on Chancellor George Osborne to stop making cuts to social care funding, at a time when the size of the older population is growing at an increasing rate and the system for keeping them fit and well at home has become much weaker.
The charity’s calls come as a survey showed the risk of heart failure in people over the age of 65 can be halved by being active and having a healthier lifestyle. Age UK said 100,000 more people are facing problems with basic tasks compared to last year, and this is having a knock-on effect on the NHS as numbers of unplanned emergency hospital admissions have increased from 1.8m in 2005/06 to 2.2m in 2012/13 amongst those aged 65 and over.
But it added that, at the same time, spending on social care services for older people has plunged by almost a third from £8.1bn in 2005/06 to £5.46bn in 2014/15. Community care services have been hardest hit with a huge cut of £560m – 25 per cent – since 2010/11 alone. Last month, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services warned that a further £1.1bn will be taken out of social care budgets this year.
Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “These new figures mean that for the first time in this country, more than a million older people with a social care need are being left to cope on their own. Not only are they without help from the social care system, they are also not getting it from family, friends or neighbours either.”
She said the charity agreeds with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week when he said everyone should take more responsibility for the care of the elderly.
“But the immediate problem we face is that at the same time as the older population is growing, the Government has cut social care funding to such an extent that the numbers of older people needing help and not getting it are rising exponentially.”
Meanwhile, a study from the Tufts University in the US has shown the risk of heart failure in people aged over 65 can be halved by being active, not smoking, keeping slim and drinking in moderation. The research monitored 2,290 men and women for more than 20 years, taking note of their diet, levels of exercise, alcohol use, smoking habits, weight and heart health.
During the study some 1,380 participants suffered heart failure, a condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body.
Walking at a faster pace and taking part in leisure activities that burned more than 845 calories a week were both associated with a lower risk of developing heart failure. Not smoking, alcohol intake of not more than one or two drinks a day, and avoiding obesity were also protective.
The findings are published in the American College of Cardiology journal Heart Failure.
Comment: Page 10.