INEQUALITY has been a much deplored but ever deepening hallmark of life in recent years. It pervades all aspects of our society, most notably in income, but also in rights, opportunities and even life expectancy by geographical area. Now, we learn that it even applies towards the end of life, when advanced dementia sufferers are treated differently from those with other terminal illnesses. The problem for dementia sufferers is that their care is complicated by being delivered through multiple providers. In Scotland, this is generally divided into two: health care and social care. The former is free, the latter subject to charges.

Dementia generally comes under the category of social care, even when health care is needed due to the inevitable physical problems that arise as the condition progresses. As a result, reports Alzheimer Scotland’s Fair Care Dementia Care Commission, advanced dementia sufferers in Scotland are paying an estimated £50.9 million a year in social care charges.

As if that weren’t enough, not only does this put them on an unequal footing compared to other unfortunates with terminal illnesses, but the amounts that have to be paid vary according to the policies their local authority charges, particularly for social care at home. In one case that Alzheimer Scotland highlights, we see decent, caring, dutiful people financially hammered for looking after a loved one, and only securing health care after pushing for it. This is clearly unacceptable.

Alzheimer Scotland wants the Scottish Government to investigate the costs of providing free health care for those with advanced dementia. This is a reasonable demand. Even if we cannot expect Holyrood to wave a magic wand to cover the cost, there is a clear need to have its experts explore possible solutions.

Dementia, we accept, is complicated. But that is no reason for advanced dementia sufferers and their families to be treated inequitably. There is enough inequality around, without it extending to the latter stages of life.