A new report from Alzheimer’s Research UK illustrates how the condition has a huge impact on not only those who have to undergo its debilitating effect, but also their friends, families and loved ones. There are an estimated 700,000 people in the UK who care for close friends or relatives that suffer from Alzheimer’s. The report – Dementia in the Family – personalises their experiences through its study of four families.

While there are certainly some positives, such as the rewarding feeling that comes with caring for a vulnerable loved one, there are severe challenges that the families face. Many have to cope with difficult changes in their loved ones’ behaviours, including violence and aggression in some instances. The relationship with the family member often changes. Furthermore, families involved often have to manage the increased costs that caring for a loved one carries, in addition to finding themselves isolated as a result of having to spend their free time providing care.  Examples are also provided of family members who have given up promotions that they do not feel they could balance with their duties. Many also worry about the long-term costs associated with what can be a very drawn out condition.

It is therefore clear that caring for a family member with dementia can be an enormous challenge, not only emotionally, but also practically and financially. However, when scaled up to the 700,000 who do this across the country, it becomes apparent it is a significant problem and more consideration needs to be given to supporting family carers.  Hundreds of thousands of families could be on the edge of poverty due: the 2014 State of Caring report found that a staggering 51% of those caring for loved ones struggle to pay the bills, and 35% cut back on essential spending.

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The economic fallout from this may not just be on an individual level however, as the report suggests many see their economic opportunities limited, reducing earnings for large swathes of people. Not only are these groups unable to play a full part in the workforce, but the government’s welfare bill is pushed up as a result of their economic inactivity. Furthermore, studies link being a carer for a family member to decreased physical health – putting a further strain on public finances.

Cutting publically funded care services is therefore an absurd move on the government’s part. Councils’ budgets are already under strain, and this is leading to a reduction in the quantity and quality of services that vulnerable people, like Alzheimer’s sufferers receive. While this may cut costs in the short term, it will also make more people dependent on family members for meeting their care needs – making the aforementioned issues all the more acute.