Older people in England are being left “high and dry” by councils cutting back on the care they provide, Age UK says.
Research by the charity showed the numbers getting help had fallen from just over one million three years ago to 850,000 last year.
Age UK said the cuts were one of the major causes behind the growing pressures on A&E units.
But councils said they had been left with little choice because they were “chronically underfunded”.
The overall cut in numbers getting help from councils represents a drop of one-fifth.
But the research – based on an analysis of official figures – also provided a detailed breakdown of which individual services had been cut.
It found between 2010-11 and 2013-14:
- The numbers getting help at home for tasks such as washing and dressing fell by a third to just over 370,000
- Day care places have dropped by two-thirds to just under 60,000
- The numbers getting meals on wheels fell to 29,500 – a decline of 64%
Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “Our state-funded social care system is in calamitous, quite rapid decline.
“The more preventive services like meals on wheels and day care are being especially hard hit, leaving the system increasingly the preserve of older people in the most acute need, storing up big problems for the future.
“Hundreds of thousands of older people who need social care are being left high and dry. The lucky ones have sufficient funds to buy in some support, or can rely on the goodwill of family, neighbours and friends. But there are many who are being left to struggle on entirely alone.”