How to find funding for long-term care
IF YOUR elderly relative is struggling to live independently, even with the help of carers, friends or relations, it might be time to start thinking about the wider care options. According to healthcare consultancy LaingBuisson, residential care homes cost on average £557 a week in England. If your relative requires medical care from a qualified nurse on-site 24 hours a day, they will require a nursing home, costing on average £730 a week in England. That is an average annual cost of £29,000 to £37,960, over what could be several years.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to sit down with our loved ones and plan ahead but unfortunately this isn’t always the case,” says Jenni Allen from Which? Elderly Care. “Relatives often find themselves in a situation where long-term, costly decisions need to be made very quickly.”
The cost of care also depends on where you live. In the South East you could pay nearly £300 more for weekly nursing care than in the North East, or more than £150 per week for residential care. You may be able to claim financial support. Local authorities have a legal duty to carry out a needs assessment of anyone they think might be eligible for local authority care, to decide what type of care would best suit them. Recommendations could include personal, nursing or specialist care.
However, funding isn’t a given. Your relative’s income, savings and assets will be scrutinised. If they have savings and assets totalling more than £23,250 (England and Northern Ireland), £26,250 (Scotland) or £23,750 (Wales), or income high enough to pay for care, they will not be eligible for localauthority funding. Of the 401,000 people in residential care across the UK, only 36 per cent are fully local-authority funded. Aside from local-authority funding, your relative may be able to access funding through NHS continuing healthcare or NHS-funded nursing care. But only those with very specific care needs meet the criteria.
If you have explored all options and drawn a blank, you are not alone — 44 per cent of people in residential homes in the UK are fully self-funded, with 13 per cent partially self-funded.
One of the benefits of self-funding is that you can choose the care home that best fits the specific needs of your loved one — and usually from a broader range than you might be offered if you were in receipt of local-authority funding. Your relative may still be entitled to other benefits and allowances, such as attendance allowance, personal independence payment and pension credit, so make sure they are claiming, as these can help with living expenses.
Jenni Allen from Which? Elderly Care adds: “Relatives should consider the options available to them before deciding who to entrust with the care of their loved one. Choosing to place a relative in a care home can be difficult. That’s why Which? Elderly Care was set up; we provide independent, clear and up-to-date information through tools like our care services directory, to help people navigate their way through the maze of complex choices.” For more details on all aspects of arranging care for a loved one, see which.co.uk/ elderly-care
If you opt for care at home, instead of in a residential facility, you need to ensure that the care provided is suitable for you and your loved one’s needs, says Jane Stewart, of Peach Nursing. First, make sure you are clear about what support is required and if it should be day, night or both. Will other carers be involved, such as the district nurse, social services or palliative nurses? Care services must be registered with The Care Quality Commission (CQC), whose inspection reports are available online. Read the last two for each provider you are considering. If you read a bad report, move on. Find out who the owner/manager is and what their qualifications are.
“I am always more comfortable to see that an owner manager is a qualified nurse with experience that fits the service,” says Ms Stewart. Also note if the care provider specialises in a particular field, such as dementia.
Will the care provider visit you to do an assessment? If not, move on. The assessment is a time for you to meet the facilitator and get a feel for “is this person right for us?”
References, ID and visas, criminalrecords checking and training are important. “Can the carer lift or use a hoist?” asks Ms Stewart. “Do they wear a uniform? Can they speak good, clear English? Can they read and write? Will they do other duties such as light housework, preparing a meal and shopping?”
Advertising independently is risky, unless you are well versed in matters such as visas, criminal-records checks and training certificates. There is also the matter of references and indemnity insurance. If you choose this route, have a trial period and speak to the last employer about the carer’s reliability, ability, attitude and professionalism.
Does your loved one need a helping hand?