What support is available when your parents need care

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No-one likes to think about their parents needing care, but planning ahead gives you the best chance of ensuring your parents are as comfortable as possible in their final years.

This article explains some of the issues you need to consider and where you can go for help and support.

Confronting the issue head-on

Talking about illness and the need for care in later life doesn't sound like the most fun conversation, but the sooner you do it, the better.

A survey by Just Group suggests 68% of British adults over the age of 75 haven't thought, planned nor discussed long-term care. This means a huge number of people don't know how and where their parents want to receive care if the need arises.

By talking about your parents' wishes in advance, it will be far less stressful for your family if one day your parents suddenly require support.

The options

There are a wide range of elderly care options available, but the first step is to ask your local council to carry out a care needs assessment. This will help you and your parents to decide on the best course of action.

The majority of adults in Britain want to receive care in their own home. Services include;

  • Regular visits from a care worker to help with personal care,

  • Shopping and preparing meals,

  • Meals on wheels,

  • Home adaptations.

It is also possible to buy or rent sheltered housing. These homes are designed to let residents remain as independent as possible while benefitting from on-site support such as a warden and alarm systems.

For people with more complex needs, a care home might be the best option. Some care homes provide around-the-clock nursing care while others are specifically designed for older people with dementia.

Your parents might express a desire to live with you in their later years. If you decide to care for your parents you can contact your local council to apply for a carer's assessment, which will assess how much support you need as well as the what the effect of becoming a carer will be for your health, job and family life. Support could include help with housework, home adaptations and emotional support.

How much does care cost?

Elderly care can be very expensive, especially if you opt for a care home.

On average, a care home costs £33,852 a year, rising to over £47,320 if nursing care is required. The costs can vary considerably depending on the care home's location and the quality of the accommodation and facilities offered.

What financial support is available?

Some people qualify for local authority funding for their care costs. You can find this out by contacting the social services department of your local authority, which will carry out a means test.

If your parents live in England or Northern Ireland, they will have to pay for their own care if they have savings and assets worth more than £23,250. In Scotland and Wales the figures are £28,000 and £50,000, respectively.

For people moving into a care home, their property value will be taken into account during the means test unless their partner or another dependent still lives there.

How to pay for care

Funding care can be very expensive, so it's worth speaking to your parents in advance about how they wish to pay for it. Your parents might have enough money in savings and investments, or be willing to rent out their home.

If your parents have a lot of property wealth, they could sell their home and buy a cheaper one to free up money to pay for care. This is called downsizing.

Another option is equity release. This provides a lump sum, or income, to pay for care by using some of the money tied up in your parents' property. Your parents have the right to remain in their house for life or until they need to move into a care home.

Choosing how to pay for care is a big decision, so it's important to speak to an independent financial adviser.

What now?

Elderly care is a complex and emotional subject, but by talking about the various options in advance you'll be far more prepared if and when the time comes.

The following links provide useful further information:

Types of care services: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/long-term-care-services-at-a-glance

Care home fees: http://www.payingforcare.org/care-home-fees

Home care costs: https://ukcareguide.co.uk/home-care-costs/

How means tests work: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/means-tests-for-help-with-care-costs-how-they-work

How to fund care: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/self-funding-your-long-term-care-your-options#how-to-fund-your-long-term-care

Financial advice - Society of Later Life Advisers: https://societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk/