My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in April 2022 and it has been an incredibly difficult couple of years as his condition deteriorated. He now has quite severe mobility issues and we have adapted our home so he can continue to live there as long as possible and it is easier for me to care for him.

We are both retired and in our early 70s. We are very fortunate and grateful to have a comfortable standard of living, but the cost of adapting the house has taken a big chunk out of our savings that were supposed to last the rest of our lives. In a perfect world we would have been able to leave an inheritance for our two adult children and their families, but this is becoming increasingly unlikely with the prospect of significant care costs in the future. We have made our peace with that.

We are very keen to make every penny count and save where we can. I have heard for conditions like Alzheimer’s we may be entitled to help with our council tax, is that true? We would be very grateful for any help where possible.

Barbara, 72, Surrey 

Before I answer this question Barbara, I just wanted to say how very much your letter moved me. My sister is a full-time carer for my niece and as a consequence I have seen first-hand how selfless and devoted carers are, despite huge costs, both personal and financial, a lack of support and ultimately, society’s reluctance to talk about difficult subjects out of fear of what the future might hold.

I’ve spoken extensively to Alzheimer’s Society to find out more about the options available to help you and others in similar situations – and I would urge anyone in a similar position to seek help and not suffer in silence. Here’s how you get started

Sadly, the financial cost of supporting someone with dementia is totally disproportionate. Alzheimer’s Society tell me that the cost of dementia in the UK is around £42 billion each year, with that figure set to rise to a staggering £90 billion by 2040 unless the Government acts urgently to provide more support. Yet people living with dementia and their families are having to cover 63% of all dementia-related costs.

I appreciate that those statistics are sobering. Yet given that 1.4 million people are likely to be living with dementia by 2040 (an increase of 43% compared to today’s prevalence figures), this is a crisis that the Government needs to address now.

The good news is there are a range of services that can provide discounts, help and support for people living with dementia or those caring for them. But these services are often disparate and aren’t always easy to track down.

Let’s start with council tax. There are a wide range of discounts available to trim a bit of cash off your council tax bill, but these can be confusing. Most people are familiar with the 25% discount for single people. However, council tax rules allow for ‘disregards’ (a terrible term) which means, if you fall into certain categories, then the individual affected is ‘disregarded’ from how the bill is worked out. This effectively opens the door to full discounts if they live alone or leaves the carer as a single person for the purposes of paying the bill – which should give you the 25% discount.

‘Severe mental impairment’ is classed as a reason to disregard someone from the bill. You’ll usually need to establish this with confirmation from your GP or a consultant. You will also need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit. This is known as a Class U exemption.

If you cannot claim SMI, or claiming it doesn’t make a difference to your bill because you have more than one other person living with you, there are other ways you may get help with council tax. For example, claiming Pension Credit may reduce your council tax bill by 100%. Depending on which adaptations may be needed to your home due to disability, the bill may also be reduced to the band below. Speak to the council about your circumstances and what is available.

For help with wider costs, there are a number of disability-related benefits that may help. Let’s take a look at some which might be applicable, depending on your circumstances.

For people under state pension age who are struggling with making ends meet, they you may qualify for universal credit or employment support allowance (ESA). There is also statutory sick pay if you are off work. Because you are both retired, check to see if you’re entitled to Pension Credit instead.

For readers on a low income, you might qualify for some of the additional grants, payments and support available for things like heating or medical costs.

Many benefits are means tested, which means you may not qualify if you have savings and investments over a certain level. This excludes the value of your main home. But don’t assume that no support will apply to you. Seek help and advice, just in case.

For example, people with dementia above state pension age may qualify for attendance allowance. This is not means tested and can cover costs related to having a disability.

Of course, the area where carers and family members may need the most support is respite care. This gives families vital time to themselves away from the pressures of 24-hour care. Respite care varies from region to region and is woefully underfunded. But don’t assume that you won’t be entitled to it. Contact the local authority to request an assessment. You can find out more some of the issues that carers face, including around accessing dementia-specific respite care in ‘The Fog of Support’ from the Alzheimer’s Society

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