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Social care is a timebomb beneath Britain – why does neither main party have a plan to tackle it? | Gaby Hinsliff

Plans to fund adult care have been derided as a ‘dementia tax’ or a ‘death tax’. The carers I visited showed me that what they need is both urgent and simple

In a church hall in suburban Croydon, south London, a familiar Beatles medley plays. The crowd sways and sings along, and an 80-year-old woman reaches out to hold her husband’s hand.

Paul has vascular dementia and can no longer speak, but he smiles occasionally as if in recognition. His wife, Jill, says they were sent home after his diagnosis with nothing but an information booklet and the sinking feeling that they were on their own, since there’s nothing much the NHS can offer. A care worker comes in for half an hour twice a week, but otherwise Jill looks after Paul while waiting for heart surgery herself, and worrying about what they’ll do when she has her operation. Recently he was hospitalised with an infection, and she found him “trying to get out of bed on his own because he doesn’t know how to use the buzzer, and he was terrified”. But at least this therapeutic Singing for the Brain group, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society for people with dementia and their carers, is a weekly chance to get out of the house and be with people who understand.

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