Trying to find care and support for a loved one can be a bewildering experience.
Today’s article is by Diane Pope from Shears in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Diane provides an independent ‘one-stop shop’ to help families navigate the issues involved in caring for an elderly relative, and so alleviating much of the anxiety and upheaval families often face.
She explains more here…
Although we regularly hear about the challenge of navigating the care system in this country, few people understand just how difficult it is until they are faced with dealing with it.
An ageing population, busy lives often lived miles apart from parents and a resilient older generation who do not want to ‘bother’ their children, combine to leave most families ill-prepared when care needs become apparent.
Caring for those we love when they need us most too often turns into a crisis, with families expected to make decisions quickly, under stress and often without full knowledge of the facts and the options – as well as their implications.
Although it is easy to highlight the importance of planning ahead, a complex, uncoordinated and changing care system makes this hard to do. Instigating the conversation about concern for a parent’s health or welfare is also difficult, but pays dividends if it clarifies each other’s perspective and wishes.
Whether you are faced with trying to find care now or in the future, there are some key areas to be aware of that will help:
- Social care is different to Healthcare. ‘Social’ or personal care refers to help with things like washing, dressing and eating, whereas ‘Healthcare’ refers to things that require nursing or medical care. The difficulty is that older people often need both and it is hard to understand the distinction, particularly when they are discharged from hospital because they are ‘clinically’ well, yet still unable to look after themselves.
- While Healthcare is provided and funded by the NHS, social care is provided and funded by Local Authorities – and is means tested. Despite national local authority eligibility criteria and bandings (Low, Moderate, Substantial and Critical), it is up to each Authority which band they provide care for – so consequently provision varies across the country. In addition, even if a person meets their Authority’s criteria for care, they will then be means-tested through a financial assessment to identify who should pay for it. If the person has more than £23,250 of personal savings (in England), they will be classed as a ‘self-funder’ and will have to pay the full cost. (Remember – this is social care, not healthcare. Healthcare is free.)
- For self-funders there are advantages and disadvantages of seeking care via the Local Authority, and many people choose to go their own route to find it. This is hugely time-consuming and stressful, as the information is in different places and the decisions to be made will all have emotional, practical and financial consequences.
Avoiding the pitfalls and getting it right is therefore important for everyone. Here are a few tips:
- Start by addressing one of the biggest decisions (because it impacts everything else) – where the person will live. Do they stay in their own home or could they move closer to you or other family members? Although relocating may seem the more onerous and emotional option, there are a number of housing choices available, providing different levels of support. For some, moving could be the best decision they ever make – but it is not for everyone, particularly as friends will be left behind.
- Identify what care and support services are required – but think broadly. While care might include help with washing and dressing, support can be much more holistic and also include aids and equipment to make daily tasks easier, as well as activity clubs or day centres to provide social stimulation and reduce loneliness.
- Research who can provide the care and support you have identified and at what price. While most care agencies are private, a number of support services are provided by the voluntary sector and may be available in your area.
- Think about reducing the financial burden of paying for services. While NHS, voluntary and some statutory sector services will be free, others will be chargeable, so investigate any non means-tested benefits, such as Attendance Allowance. It might also be prudent to take financial advice from a specialist later life adviser.
- Finally, while thinking of the short and medium term, always keep an eye on the long term too. There may come a time when your loved one is unable to make their own decisions, so consider suggesting they make a Power of Attorney now, so that you can still carry out their wishes for them later on.
So, if you are worried about ageing parents or relatives there are a lot of things you can do to prepare, but it takes time. And involving your loved ones as much as possible gives them the chance to articulate their preferences, which ultimately makes it easier for everyone.
Shears provides bespoke and independent information, advice and practical support to help older people remain in their own home or to move somewhere more suitable, through a unique range of home support and relocation services. Email Diane today, call 0844 412 0606 or visit www.shears-uk.com.