Senior care sector must get its act together
HAVE WE reached the tipping point in elderly care provision? With NHS and social services resources at full stretch and our demographics going through unprecedented change, elderly care is coming under the spotlight. Since the mid-2000s, the proportion of over-65s in the population has increased by 21 per cent and that of over-85s by 31 per cent. Over-65s account for 11.6 million of us (17.8 per cent of the population).
In the five years up to 2020, the general population is expected to rise by three per cent but for over-65s, that figure is 12 per cent; over-85s, 18 per cent and centenarians, 40 per cent. The Office for National Statistics has forecast that, by 2039, nearly 30 per cent of us will be aged 60 or over, with more than one in 12 expected to be aged 80 or more.
Government select committees have heard evidence from experts advocating a radical change in how care is delivered, to ensure the older generation is protected.
“People want better support for longterm elderly care planning, with a fully integrated approach,” says Suzanne Gulshan from Romain Coleman, a London firm of solicitors specialising in co-ordinating elderly care needs.
“Looking after the care needs and financial affairs of loved ones as they grow older presents a complex, sensitive set of challenges. Too often this involves having to deal with several different, unconnected organisations, which can be a stressful, emotional and protracted process for patients, carers and their families. There has to be a better way.
“We know there needs to be a better understanding of care provision to meet the varying capabilities of elderly loved ones. Of course that means aiming to improve public health services but, with limited resources, it’s a natural progression for the private sector to take a role by offering services that the older population really needs.”
While the inexorable rise in the elderly population creates additional pressure on public finances, the working population is subsidising yet more expenditure on care services and pensions. The big question is whether it is sustainable.
An Institute of Fiscal Studies report, published last month, states nearly £3 in every £10 spent by government goes on health, social care and benefits to those with poor health or disabilities. It warns that growth in Department of Health spending is unlikely to rise sufficiently to cope with the demands of the ageing population.
Where does this leave the care industry and families seeking integrated solutions to elderly care?
Advisory services such as that offered by Romain Coleman and other law firms would not be a panacea. As far back as 2011, the Dilnot Commission concluded that the social care system was inadequately funded and people were not receiving the support they needed.
The vulnerable and less well-off will still need access to NHS-funded continuing healthcare packages. Even people who have set aside funds for long-term care are not exempt from the frustration of having to organise it all themselves: arranging legal documentation with solicitors, obtaining homecare services (from allied health professionals to domestic cleaners), or checking out care homes without really knowing what to look for.
Access to one-to-one, dedicated support to co-ordinate all aspects of longterm care may provide some muchneeded control and solace for elderly people and their families.
As Suzanne Gulshan says: “If we provide patients and their families with legal and financial solutions to help them make the right choices, they can achieve better outcomes for long-term care.”
By 2039, nearly 30 per cent of us will be age 60-plus’
Even if you have saved enough to pay for care, there is a vast, complicated world of providers and resources out there