Dementia guide

Dementia, social services and the NHS

There is a range of services run by either the NHS or social services to help people with dementia, although local availability and costs can vary.

If you are diagnosed with dementia, your future health and social care needs will be assessed and a care plan will be drawn up.

As a general rule, your social and personal care will come from the social services department of your local authority or council, while the healthcare you need will be provided by the NHS.

You may have to pay for all or some of the help arranged by social services, depending on your income and savings, while the NHS care you receive will largely be free.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s on offer from each:

Social services for dementia

Social services can help with your personal care and day-to-day activities. For example, they may provide home care assistants to help you with washing and dressing, laundry services, meals on wheels, frozen food delivery, aids and adaptations, and help with claiming benefits.

To access the services you need, you’ll first have to be assessed. If you haven’t already had a thorough assessment by health and social services, contact your local authority or council and ask for the social services department to carry out a community care assessment. Once you’ve put in your request, a care manager will contact you or your family to arrange an appointment to see you at home and assess your needs.

Read more about finding dementia help and support, and find your local authority.

NHS support for dementia

NHS help for dementia includes the treatment you receive from your GP and hospital. It can also include other types of healthcare such as community mental health nurses, physiotherapy, audiology (hearing care), optometry (eye tests), podiatry (foot care), speech and language therapy, and mobility specialists.

The NHS will also fund any nursing care you receive in a nursing home, although nursing home placement may not be completely free.

In some parts of the country, the NHS provides Admiral nurses. These are NHS specialist dementia nurses who will visit you to give you practical guidance on accessing services as well as offering emotional support. Find out more about Admiral nurses and how they can help.

The NHS also provides free continuing healthcare, for people with dementia deemed to have severe medical needs. If you’re awarded continuing healthcare, the NHS will provide and fund your entire care package – including your healthcare and social care – whether you live in a care home or in your own home. If you live in a care home, NHS continuing healthcare covers your residential costs and your food, as well as any nursing care.

To qualify for NHS continuing healthcare, you need to have an individual assessment, this may have already happened. To check whether you’ve had a continuing healthcare assessment, or to request one, contact your local primary care trust (PCT) and ask for the NHS continuing healthcare co-ordinator. Find your local PCT. PCTs will be replaced by Clinical Commissiong Groups (CCGs) in April 2013.

The Department of Health has produced a booklet, called NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care (PDF, 252Kb), for people who may need NHS continuing care, and their families and carers.

How to access help and support

  • Be prepared to be persistent to get what you want. Health and social care professionals may not always communicate with each other as well as they should, and you may find you have to explain your situation each time you meet a new professional.
  • Keep copies of forms and letters and a record of who you’ve seen. It will help you keep track of your progress and be useful for the health and social care professionals you meet.
  • Consider using an advocacy organisation. Advocacy organisations can help you access services and give you advice about your rights, particularly if you find meetings and talks with health and social care professionals quite intimidating. The Alzheimer’s Society has a nationwide network of advocates. Read more about advocacy organisations and how they can help.   

Last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015


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