Many of us under-estimate the expense of paying for care. Care home fees cost around £28,000 a year and nursing homes around £36,000. Most people have to pay something towards costs whether they choose care at home or in a residential setting.
Under new plans due to start in April 2017, lifetime care costs will be capped at £72,000, which should reduce the number of people who spend all their family inheritance on care fees.
Care at home
If you or a relative are struggling at home, contact your local social services department to arrange an assessment.
Once you have been confirmed as needing support at home, your finances will be assessed to find out how much you can afford to pay towards the cost of services, while still having enough money to live on.
The amount that social services departments pay towards care on your behalf varies depending on your local authority, although there are minimum requirements.
State funded residential care
If you have assets of less than £23,250 and have been assessed as needing residential care, your local authority will pay for your care. Your state pension will be used towards the bill, but you will keep £23.90 a week for personal expenses.
You can still have a say in the choice of home, even if the State is paying the bill. Your local authority will allow a third party - such as a relative - to top up fees so you can live in a more expensive home if you want to.
Most forms of capital and savings are included in the means test but if you are married, only the partner requiring care is means tested so it’s best to have separate bank accounts.
Paying for your own residential care
Funding changes come into force in April 2017 but at present, if you have assets of more than £23,250, you pay the full cost of your care.
If you are self funding and, apart from your property, your capital is below £23,250, your local authority will help with costs during the first 12 weeks of residential care - while you try to sell your home. After that, any financial help will be reclaimed once your property is sold.
You are not obliged to sell your home to pay for care; your social services may lend you the money then reclaim it later from your estate or eventual property sale.
Some people rent out their property but this may not provide enough money to cover fees and it may also affect your right to other benefits, too.
If you or a loved one are aged 65 or over and need help with personal care, you may be eligible for Attendance Allowance. This is not means-tested and can be worth from £53 to £79.15 per week depending on how your disability or illness affects you. (Figures correct as at April 1). You can use this towards your care fees.
If you receive nursing care in a nursing home, you may be eligible for NHS Funded Nursing Care - currently £109.79 per week, which will be paid directly to the home as a contribution towards your fees. Severely ill people may qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare - speak to your GP about this.
Many people use equity release to buy a care annuity plan, which will pay all fees in return for one advance payment. Seek financial advice from an independent advisor before choosing this option.
If you are self-funding and your money reduces to £23,250, ask for Local Authority help. However if your care home costs more than the Local Authority limit, you may have to move to a less expensive home so make sure you will be able to sustain rising costs.
Having that difficult conversation
Most of us hope to remain living in our own homes but sadly that’s not always possible.
Raising the possibility of residential care with an elderly loved one can be very difficult. It’s best to raise the topic before action is needed so that all parties can agree on a future plan.
Most people avoid the topic until a crisis arises, then hurried decisions have to be made. Everyone’s views should be considered - however old they are. It’s often possible for people to remain in their own home with support.
Retirement villages allow you to buy an apartment, flat, bungalow, house or cottage in a community of retired people with care and support available.
Call Retirement Villages on 0845 521 1857 or visit www.retirementvillages.co.uk
Clearing out someone's home
This can be very stressful and it’s sad to see a lifetime of possessions packed in boxes. Most residential homes allow residents to take some personal possessions with them. Photographs, books and other small items can help make the move easier.
Making a memory box of treasured items and pictures can also be a good link with the past.
Sometimes people sell furniture or household goods but often many items go to charity shops.
Find out more...
Always take independent financial advice before making any decisions about funding long-term care.
Attendance Allowance helpline 0845 712 3456 or visit www.gov.uk
Carers UK advice line 0808 808 7777, www.carersuk.org for factsheets and advice
Age UK helpline 0800 169 6565, www.ageuk.org.uk for factsheets on all aspects of care costs
Eldercare has worked in association with Yours to produce a Guide to Helping Loved Ones to Live independently in their own homes. Call Eldercare on 0845 603 4576 or visit www.eldercare.co.uk