Taking the pain out of long-term care

Tuesday 07 April 2015, 07:30 AM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

Seeing your parents or grandparents getting old and frail can be really difficult emotionally. But having a plan in place to cover the practicalities if they do need care can make this tough time a little easier.

Although it might never happen, it's definitely worth being prepared. For many people the move into care can be very sudden, often following a fall or a short illness, so knowing there's a plan in place can be very reassuring.

It can also be extremely expensive. Although prices vary hugely around the country, you can expect to pay an average of £28,500 a year for a care home, according to figures from PayingForCare. Add in nursing care and this rises to more than £37,500 a year. 

Care in the home tends to be cheaper, but you can still expect to pay between £10 and £16 an hour for this. Having a rough idea of what's available and the cost will also help if you do need to call in the professionals. 

These are some of the things you might want to include in your plan:

* Look at care options

While a care home is the perfect choice for many people struggling to look after themselves, it's not the only option. It's also possible to arrange care in someone's own home, with carers providing support for anything from a couple of hours a week to around-the-clock. 

Supported living arrangements such as sheltered and extra-care housing are also possible. These allow people to live independently with the benefit of extras such as onsite wardens, domestic support and communal facilities.

And you might also want to consider more informal arrangements such as sharing a home or caring for them yourself. 

* Speak to your local authority

Your local authority is worth a call. Under the Care Act 2014, they are required to provide an information and advice service relating to care and support for adults. 

They can also provide a care needs assessment, to determine your relative's care requirements, and a financial assessment to work out who pays. 

But even if your relative doesn't qualify for help with their care fees, it's worth contacting their local authority. In April 2016 the £72,000 cap on care costs is introduced and a care needs assessment showing eligibility is required to start the care costs metre.  

* Research the finances

Although what's required might not be certain at this point, it's sensible to check out some costs to see what's within your budget. This will also help to shape decisions about what might be suitable. 

In addition to looking at the costs of care, check income too as far too many people don't claim all their entitlements. For example, if your relative is aged 65-plus and needs help with washing and eating they might qualify for an Attendance Allowance worth up to £81.30 a week.     

More details on the cost of care are available from not-for-profit organisation PayingForCare (www.payingforcare.org). Its website also includes a residential care calculator and a care cap calculator. 

* Sort out the paperwork 

As well as making sure wills are up-to-date, it's worth setting up a lasting power of attorney, or LPA, for your relative. This is a legal document that lets them appoint one or more people to make decisions on their behalf if they're unable to do so themselves. 

Without one, you'll need to apply to the Court of Protection to act as their deputy - a process that is considerably more complicated and expensive. 

Two types are available - a health and welfare LPA and a property and financial affairs LPA - and it costs £110 to register one with the Office of the Public Guardian. More information is available on the gov website. (https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/overview)   

* Talk

It's a sensitive topic, but finding out what someone would like if they did need care can take a huge amount of stress out of the situation. Not only will it take a lot of the uncertainty out of the care they'll receive, but knowing you're following their wishes can bring peace of mind in what is often a difficult time.

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