As the results of the 2024 UK General Election are in and a new government is in place, opinions on the outcome are plentiful. However, amidst the continuing discussions on policies and leadership, there remains a crucial yet often overlooked topic. 

Adult social care, particularly the best interest of individuals living with a Dementia who choose to vote, or don’t have a voice is not often discussed.  

When researching more on this subject and what the 2024 General Election might mean for individuals on a Dementia journey, I found that a person living with a cognitive impairment can cast a valid vote if they choose to, which is an encouraging and empowering aspect of our democratic process.  The Mental Capacity Act 2005 outlines that having a cognitive impairment does not automatically disqualify someone from voting.  

Living with early or middle stages of Dementia and having the ability to vote could mean no support is needed, but what about individuals who are on a later Dementia journey? The Mental Capacity Act 2005 emphasises supporting individuals with Dementia in making decisions based on their identity.  

Imagine if … 

You are voting via postal vote, a piece of paper with boxes, words, and logos that you don’t understand being put in front of you, a pen that you don’t recognise but is placed in your hand. Someone then gently supporting you, guiding you to hold the pen and mark the paper where you want to because this is your choice.

This could be encouraging independence, engagement and a person-centred approach, giving someone on a Dementia journey the choice to participate in democracy as an equal citizen. But what if the person offering support sees the vulnerability as an opportunity? What if that person voted Labour but the person they are supporting is, and has always been, a staunch Tory? There could be a question of integrity, as the supporter could take advantage of the situation and influence the person to vote differently.  What if you simply scribbled an X in the wrong box? You wouldn’t understand, you wouldn’t know you have voted for an opposite party, something that is part of your identity.   

Voting is a fundamental part of democracy, supported by principles of equality and non-discrimination. The challenge is to ensure that the person voting with Dementia is protected. 

The Ability to Vote 

While the right to vote is clear, the ability to vote can be compromised. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, about 850,000 people live with a Dementia in the UK, a number that is expected to rise. The Alzheimer’s Society states that decisions made for a person who can’t decide must always be in their best interests.  

Complexity of Voting Processes and Lack of Support 

Support is crucial for helping those in the later stages of Dementia engage with the political process. Unfortunately, many don’t get the support needed to understand candidates and issues, leaving them confused and unable to make informed decisions. Processes we take for granted, like registering to vote, understanding manifestos, and going to polling stations, can be overwhelming for those living with a Dementia. The requirement for ID to vote also adds extra barriers. 

Liz Thompson, Registered Manager of Sundial Care Home, mentioned that two residents (fondly referred to as family members) usually opt for postal voting. One lady typically receives help from her husband but has decided not to vote this time. Liz explained, “Although someone living with a Dementia has the right to vote, it can be really difficult. It’s ultimately up to the individual to decide what they want to do, regardless of our opinions.” Liz added that whether family members choose to vote in person, by post, or by proxy, their care team supports them by helping them vote. 

With the 2024 UK General Election now behind us and a new government in place, we need to start talking about the unseen issue of giving a voice and protection to individuals living with a Dementia in care homes.

Despite their right to vote, the reality is that most people with a Dementia living in care do not cast their vote. Given that many of them were active voters before their diagnosis and that voting should still be important to them, this brings up some important questions: Where is their voice? Who is thinking about and protecting them? Who in our society is advocating for social care and protections that our elder generation needs – and let’s not forget that one day, our elder generation will be us. 

It’s up to us, as a society, to ensure that their voices are heard. We need to find ways to support their participation in our political system, protecting their rights and ensuring that their interests are considered in the decisions that shape our society.  

Link to Alzheimer’s Society: Making decisions for a person with dementia who lacks mental capacity: 

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