On the radar: dementia tax
With Theresa May announcing that a cap would be imposed on costs paid by those needing social care under a policy outlined in last Thursday’s Conservative Party manifesto, and widely described since as a ‘dementia tax’, we decided to take a brief look at the earlier evidence for the use of this relatively new phrase.
The phrase ‘dementia tax’ seems to have been first used in English in February 2008 in a Canadian newspaper. Despite its obvious pejorative potential, this article used it positively to describe French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s policy of making a small charge for each medical visit and purchase of prescription drugs in order to fund treatment and research of Alzheimer’s:
Sarkozy is…dealing with both treatment and research…, tacking on a tiny ‘dementia tax’ to each medical visit and prescription-drug purchase. This will increase France’s total four-year Alzheimer budget to almost $2.36 billion CDN to fight an incurable illness afflicting 860,000 French citizens.
In Britain the phrase – which is all but undetectable in US contexts – has generally been used with negative connotations, and with specific reference to social care for dementia sufferers. In the summer of the same year that the Ottawa Citizen voiced its approval for Sarkozy’s policy, the Alzheimer’s Society published report titled ‘The Dementia Tax: charging People with Dementia for Inadequate Care: the Evidence for Change’. Since then it’s been used extensively in Britain to refer to government policies in which those with dementia or their families are charged for their care. In 2012, Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, referencing the Alzheimer’s Society report in 2012, called on the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, to:
…assure the House that any new system of funding will end the current dementia tax, under which those with dementia are penalised as a result of their condition with some of the highest social care costs?
The same year, the Labour MP Julie Hilling quoted a message from one of her constituents, Amy:
Alongside the funding crisis there is also a huge injustice in the way we pay for care. This includes the dementia tax, where tens of thousands of families are left to pay all their care costs whilst other terminal conditions are paid for by the NHS.
On Thursday of last week, when the Conservative Party General Election manifesto was launched, newspapers began to report that politicians opposed to the policy of charging those whose savings and property holdings amounted to more than £100,000 were among many to describe the move as a ‘dementia tax’.
It remains to be seen whether the phrase will continue to be used to describe any financial burden regarded as particularly affecting those suffering from dementia, but in the last four days of election coverage in the UK, its usage has skyrocketed in the press and on Twitter.