Dementia patients hit with 'care tax', charity warns

More than five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's, and that number could balloon to 16 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association (AFP Photo/Sebastien Bozon)

London (AFP) - The annual cost of dementia to the UK has soared to 26 billion pounds with patients, carers and families being forced to shoulder two-thirds of the cost themselves, a leading charity warned on Wednesday.

The Alzheimer's Society has called on the British government to provide more financial assistance after research showed dementia patients and their families received on average about a third of the total cost of their annual care of more than 32,000 pounds from the state.

Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes described the lack of paid-for care as a "dementia tax" for the 225,000 people who develop dementia every year.

"If you have cancer or heart disease you can quite rightly expect that the care you need will be free," he said.

The study said dementia patients paid out 5.8 billion pounds for social care while their friends and relatives provided 1.3 billion hours of unpaid care, which would have cost the NHS 11.6 billion pounds.

The charity said this "unfairly disadvantages" people with dementia, which will affect 850,000 people by mid-2015, according to the research carried out by the London School of Economics and King's College London.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "I want to make sure those with dementia, their families and carers get the help they need. It's precisely because people face such unfair care costs that we are transforming the way people pay for care, capping the amount they have to pay and providing more financial help."

"To tackle this devastating condition, we are also doubling funding for research, pushing the NHS to improve diagnosis rates and post-diagnostic support, and focusing national attention on dementia like never before," he added.