Tonight: Looking After Mum And Dad

Looking After Mum And Dad: Tonight, ITV at 7.30pm Credit: ITV/Tonight

Gill Denman is exhausted. She shakes her head of long grey hair and tells me she hasn't had a night's sleep for as long as she can remember.

Her Mum Mabel, who is 98, has dementia. Her dad Bill, 93, is temporarily in hospital. Although a worry to Gill, it means at least for a short time she has one fewer person to look after.

"I can hardly get any sleep. I end up sleeping on the hall floor to be near mum - some nights she can get up 20 to 30 times in a night and you put her back in bed and she's out of bed again. I'm constantly exhausted."

Gill is caught in a care trap which has become familiar to many families. She's given up work and every last remnant of her social life to look after her elderly parents, simply because she feels she has no choice.

There is no help from the state because the three of them jointly own their home in Essex.

Currently, if you have assets of £23,250 or over, you are responsible for all your care costs in your elderly years.

For Gill and for many others, it's a shock to learn that neither the NHS nor local authorities will step in.

Gill gets a carer's allowance - just under £60 a week - and her mum's care costs £48 for three hours of help a week.

But she has no idea when the bills will end, particularly if Mabel becomes too difficult to look after at home, and needs to move into residential care.

For Gill, the thought of possibly having to sell the family home to pay for care in the future weighs heavily on her - not least as it means she herself would lose a roof over her head.

"I find that my previous life is almost like a dream. The reality now is that I don't think about tomorrow. I try not to because it frightens me too much."

With the number of people living over 85 predicted to double in the next 20 years, this is a scenario which is becoming all too familiar - causing a crisis in elderly care and prompting the government to act.

The Care Bill, due to become law in the next two years, is designed to protect families from catastrophic care costs.

It sets a limit on what any one person has to pay for care at £72,000 and will now step into help if you have assets of less than £118,000.

Gill often sleeps on the floor to be near her mum who suffers from dementia. Credit: ITV/Tonight

On the surface, this has been welcomed by many as a significant improvement.

But delve deeper - as we have for this week's Tonight programme - and we would all do well to read the small print: alarming for our elderly parents, but equally alarming for all of us as we contemplate our twilight years - radically reshaping ideas of inheritance, home ownership and a happy retirement.

Tonight: Looking After Mum & Dad, 7.30pm on ITV and then on the ITV Player

For more information on this subject visit Age UK and Carers UK.