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Over a million older people struggling to cope alone

Published on 06 July 2015 11:00 PM

The number of older people who have difficulty with basic tasks such as getting out of bed, washing and dressing but who get no help has now soared to over 1 million (1,004,000) according to shocking new analysis by Age UK.


This means that each and every day over 1 million older people who need care are left to the stark reality of battling on alone - over 100,000 more than last year.

Older people 'left stranded'

These figures reveal the extent to which older people are being left stranded, with nearly a third (31.1%) of all of those who have difficulty in carrying out one or more essential activities of daily life not receiving any formal or informal help. More specifically the figures mean:

  • Over half of those who struggle to wash/get in the bath do not receive any help (580,000 out of 1,120,000.)
  • More than 1 in 3 of those who find it difficult to go to the toilet do not receive any help (140,000 out of 400,000)
  • 1 in 3 of those who find it hard to get out of bed on their own do not receive any help (210,000 out of 650,000)
  • Over 4 in 5 of those who need help taking their medication do not receive any help (230,000 out of 270,000)
  • Almost two thirds of those who find it hard to eat on their own do not receive any help (180,000 out of 290,000)
  • Over two fifths of those who find it difficult to get dressed do not receive any help (680,000 out of 1,530,000)

At a time when the size of the older population is growing at an increasing rate, our system for keeping them fit and well at home has become much weaker.

All of this is having a knock on effect on the NHS as numbers of unplanned ‘emergency' hospital admissions have increased from 1,810,531 in 2005/06 to 2,211,228 in 2012/13 amongst those aged 65 and over.

Spending on older people 'has plunged'

Over the past 10 years spending on social care services for older people has plunged by almost a third (32.6%) from £8.1bn in 2005/06[vii] to £5.46bn in 2014/15.

Community care services have been hardest hit with a huge cut of 24.9% (£560m) since 2010/11 alone. These figures take account of budget transfers from the NHS to social care.

Last month ADASS (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) chiefs warned that a further £1.1bn will be taken out of social care budgets. These figures factor in additional funding provided from the Government for the implementation of the Care Act and the Better Care Fund.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK 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. To have to struggle alone is unfair on these older people and also unacceptable in a civilised society.

‘Last week Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, made an important speech in which he called on us all to take more personal responsibility for the older people around us.

'Downward spiral' in social care

‘Age UK agrees: our culture needs to be one of caring and mutual support across all ages, families and communities. We need to work together to bring such a culture about everywhere - which would benefit us all.

‘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.

'And there are other damaging consequences from these cuts too: for example, as they work through the system the pressures on care providers intensify and it becomes ever harder to recruit and retain care staff.

‘This downward spiral in social care and support for older people can't go on. The Budget on July 8th offers a great opportunity for the Government to begin to address it and a million older people need them to take urgent action.'

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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