A social care leader has warned the steep rise in the number of people with dementia in North Wales is a “ticking timebomb”.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, was responding to a new report which shows there are already 11,000 people living with the cruel condition in the region.
According to the study by Denbighshire County Council, there are now 50,000 people aged 65 and over in North Wales with the figure due to rise to 210,000 by 2039.
At that point the over-65 are expected to make up 30 per cent of the population, with Conwy and Anglesey likely to have the highest proportion of them.
The report concluded there was likely to be a need for more nursing home places.
Mr Kreft said the findings came as no surprise and highlighted once again the lack of capacity in the system.
He said: “Given the inescapable demographics of an ageing population, we are sitting on a social care timebomb and we need to take urgent action otherwise we will be sleep-walking into a perfect storm.
“It was a trend also highlighted in a the recent Parliamentary Review and a report by Older People’s Commissioner Sarah Rochira who drew attention to the lack of care home capacity in Wales.
“The message is loud, clear and very straightforward. We need to build sustainable social care services including new care homes. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening and we are seeing care homes closing right across Wales because it is not financially viable to keep them open.
“These reports are a real wake up call. It shows that we really do need to look at the leadership here in Wales of how we can actually develop a climate and culture where people want to invest and take the risk and actually build these much needed facilities.
“It is very, very clear that after two decades of people in local government particularly saying we don’t want new care homes, we’ve now had the Parliamentary Review and the Commissioner for Older People saying they’re desperately needed as we’re losing them faster than we’re building them.
“Just before Christmas we had, based on the Office of National Statistics, a report saying that the over 85s population in Wales is going to double in the next 15 – 18 years.
“We really have got to cherish and support what we have but it is also becoming clear that we need to have more new care homes that are designed to meet increasingly complex needs.
“It is imperative that we create a climate to reverse the decline in the number of care homes and get people building them again. The sector is chronically underfunded so this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“The Parliamentary Review and the Commissioner both say we need more capacity and they also say we should better have integration with all parts of the sector including the independent sector.
“It’s very much what Care Forum Wales has been saying for many years is now being re-iterated by these two very important reports.
“Unless more care homes are built, a lot of these older people are going to end up in hospital where there’s no room for them anyway
“We need the leadership to take the difficult decisions about how in the future we’re going to have a sustainable health and social care system.
“There is a need to recruit and retain staff and Denbighshire and other local authorities need to recognise this and properly reward them for the work they do in the way they commission.
“Last year the Welsh Government took a big step in the right direction by identifying social care as a key pillar of our economic well-being.
“It’s wonderful that people are living longer and living better. But for many, many people, there’ll be a period in their lives where, either an intensive package of care at home or, for some people, a care facility will be what’s going to be required.
“We need to recognise the value of what we have and build on it. It is not happening now because the sums do not add up and if we can’t have a vibrant care sector In Wales, the knock on effects for our services and indeed, for the people of Wales are going to be very, very serious indeed.”