Report investigates housing for people with dementia

February 17, 2021

A report published today from the All-Party Parliament Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People which was jointly written by the Housing LIN's co-dementia lead, Katey Twyford, and the Housing LIN’s CEO Jeremy Porteus, has found that progress in developing suitable homes for those living with dementia has been too slow.

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has called for urgent action, following the publication of the report: Housing for people with dementia – are we ready?  to ensure that housing is ‘dementia-ready’ from the outset.

One in 14 people aged over 65 in the UK population are estimated to be living with dementia however, according to report, specialist housing for older people still represents a relatively small portion of older people’s housing.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People launched a 6-month Inquiry in June 2020 to look in-depth at key elements that will help adults with dementia to live as well as they can in a range of housing types, including housing with care schemes.

Against a backdrop of the escalation of Covid-19, four Inquiry sessions were held virtually between June and December 2020. They sought expert evidence on:

  • The lived experience of people with dementia.
  • The links between housing, health and social care to improve the journey of someone affected by dementia.
  • The design of new homes.
  • Ways to increase supply of specialist dementia friendly properties.
  • Changes and adaptations to existing homes to enable people to live well with dementia.
  • The role of innovative technology to improve the delivery of better care and support.

The Inquiry sought evidence on all aspects of housing with care for older people with dementia but did not include residential care or nursing homes.

The LGBT Foundation told the Inquiry that LGBT people with dementia are less likely to have children to support them, may be more anxious about accessing services and support because of historic and current discrimination and be more likely to be isolated due to the lack of services and support. They highlighted their work with Stonewall Housing and Manchester City Council to develop the first purpose-built LGBT extra care housing development.

They also pointed out that in their housing survey, 74% of responders want a home for their old age aimed at them and delivered by a LGBT-specific provider, but 43% had no idea where they would get care and support in the future.

The Inquiry also heard that there is an assumption that people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups look after their older relatives at home. The Abbeyfield Society said that this is an oversimplification and the view that extended families take on responsibility for relatives with dementia should not be relied on.

6 out of 10 people with dementia said they experience loneliness and isolation, but not all of these people lived alone. The Inquiry heard from author, Wendy Mitchell, a person with experience of living with dementia about how living alone can be a positive experience.

The Local Government Association advised that people may not need treatment or social care immediately after a diagnosis of dementia, but that they are often in a vacuum at the point when they could be making effective choices and plans to make changes to housing, care and support to meet their future needs. The Inquiry heard how professionals deliver post-diagnostic support and learned that current assessments do not often include opportunities to explore housing matters or whether current arrangements will remain suitable as a person’s dementia progresses.

People living with dementia described the importance of having enabling support rather than disabling support from those around them.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) stated that housing is central to care and to our lives and that people should be supported to live at home and remain in their communities unless their needs can only be met elsewhere.

The Inquiry gathered evidence from a wide range of contributions from older people living with dementia, organisations within the housing and care sectors and government departments and suggested the following recommendations:

  • People should consider potential future loneliness and how we can maintain our family connections and wider social networks in the communities we live in before or after a diagnosis of dementia.
  • The Cabinet Office brings together the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) with NHS England, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and HM Treasury to forge an overarching strategy for housing and care for older people.
  • DHSC recognise the interdependency between housing, social care and the NHS in supporting people with dementia and correspondingly rethink funding to prevent the need for higher-cost services.
  • MHCLG support increased provision of Extra Care Housing/ Assisted Living accommodation and retirement housing that is dementia-ready, with top-sliced grant-aid through Homes England and the GLA Affordable Housing Programme.
  • Housing providers consider the design and adaptability of their homes in meeting the needs of those living with dementia, covering both ‘hard design’ and ‘soft design’, adopting the new ‘dementia-ready’   'Housing for an Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation' (HAPPI) design principles.
  • Plans set out by local authorities should also take account of and act on the demand and need for housing for people living with dementia among BAME and LGBT communities in their locality.

Co-Chair of the APPG on Housing and Care for Older People, Lord Best, said, ‘There are no vaccines for dementia. There is currently no cure and in most cases the condition worsens over time. But getting the housing right can make a huge difference for those living with dementia and their carers’.

‘Our Inquiry shows how ‘right-sizing’ or adapting the home can avoid or postpone a move into residential care, saving residential places for others who really need them. Our recommendations challenge politicians and practitioners but also ourselves to get ready for a future when, despite increasing numbers, everyone with dementia can have a fulfilling life.’

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover, which sponsored the inquiry, said, ‘The recommendations set out clear and effective ways in which the government and providers can address this major challenge, making our society more dementia-friendly and enhancing the lives of those living with dementia.’

Jeremy Porteus, Secretariat to the Inquiry and co-author of the report added, ‘It is over a decade since the publication of the first HAPPI report. At that time, it highlighted the need for ‘care ready’ design for housing our ageing population.

‘This Inquiry has gone much further and completely reframed the original 10 principles to incorporate for dementia-readiness. Good design is good dementia design. So, let’s not wait another ten years - let’s adopt HAPPI now.’

Gareth Lyon, Head of Policy and Communications at ARCO said, 'This excellent and timely report illustrates both the huge potential of specialist housing with care and on the current undersupply of it – particularly for people with dementia. Good quality housing which meets the needs of an ageing population needs to be at the heart of the UK’s social care system in future – we hope that the Government acts upon these recommendations.'

Visit the Housing LIN website to download the report in full.


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