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NEWS: New report shows an increase in later-life dependency

Posted on 17/08/2017

A new study, published in The Lancet, suggests that older people spend more time with personal care needs now than they did 20 years ago.

The research analysed older people in three geographical regions in both 1991 and 2011 to ascertain whether later-life dependency was increasing and to help project possible future care requirements across the country. It looked at four different stages or levels of care, from low dependency (less than daily) up to high dependency (24-hour support).

The study found that there was a measurable increase in the number of years lived after the age of 65 with low-dependency care needs, as well as an increase in the number of years lived at the higher end of the care needs scale. On average, the study suggests that older men spend 2.4 years and women spend 3.0 years with substantial care needs. Those substantial care needs mean round-the-clock care, helping with basic daily tasks and personal care requirements.

Of course, life expectancy has risen, which does account for some of the extra years spent with these high care needs, however the increase in care requirements and dependency has risen more sharply than the life expectancy.

The way that care is delivered has also changed over the last two decades, with far more older people choosing to have their care needs met at him, continuing to live independently within the community for as long as possible. The report says that there were “substantial reductions in the proportions with medium and high dependency who lived in care homes”. However, if the proportions of both increasing dependency and care home placements remains constant, then a further 71,215 care home places will be needed by 2025.

With so many people choosing to remain and receive care at home, this means that there will be increased demand for home paid carers. This makes it a good time for currently employed carers to consider a move into self-employment, so that they can help to meet the demand in their local area and offer more personalised services to the community. However, it also means that more unpaid carers, usually family members, will be helping to look after elderly relatives and will require support themselves in the challenging role.

While this research only covers a relatively small number of people, it is useful in projecting future care requirements in the country. It is worth thinking about care plans early and saving money to help pay for home help when the time comes. 

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