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This was the headline that I read in the newspaper recently and I thought it all looked rather scary. The fee increases follow cuts to Local Authority funding and an increase in higher minimum wages. One of the most expensive places in the country for care home fees is Durham. Average fees in Durham are £907.00 per week, up from £492.00 per week last year. On average, care home fees rose by 23% last year and nursing home fees increased by 34% across the country.
The article went on to say that both the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK are very concerned about the situation.
I realise that these are worrying ﬁgures. However, at Emmersons Solicitors we now see part of our remit as being to help you or your relatives to plan ahead in respect of long term care. Whilst it is not always possible to avoid having to go into a care home or nursing home there are steps that can be taken to delay the inevitable and sometimes avoid this altogether.
Did you know that if you need nursing care, as opposed to social care, then the NHS are obliged to pay for this? The payments are made following an assessment of the patient’s needs. This doesn’t just mean patients in a hospital setting, the scheme is designed to assist those still in their own home as well as those who may need to move into a nursing home.
There are two levels of ﬁnancial assistance in this regard;
The basic level which is usually around the £110.00 mark per week. The money can be used for any help that the claimant thinks is necessary. So it can be used for a carer to come in and help you to get washed, or to help you with housework, or to make food for you. The choice is yours. The aim is to help you either in your own home or to pay towards your care in a residential setting.
You will need to contact either Age UK, who will come out and give you free advice, whilst they are assessing you they can also look at any other beneﬁts to which you may be entitled. They can also suggest things that you may need to assist you in your home, such as a stair lift, Zimmer frames, handles to help you get about your home. You can also contact your local social services team and ask for help.
Notably, if you are assessed as being entitled to this funding you can choose who will be the person to help you. This could be a close friend, who helped you free for an hour per week, but is now prepared to help you for ten hours if paid to do so. It does not have to be an agency appointed by the NHS or Social Services.
Our Elderly Client Team were fortunate to receive some in-house training recently on this topic. Shortly thereafter I made enquiries on behalf of one of my own relatives. This private company could do a minimum of one hour at a time. However, it was an hour that was meaningful, it could be preparing food and a quick bit of shopping. It could be bathing and housework. Notably, social services were charging more money for their services and clients might be left with only a half hour slot which often is simply not enough time.
This company were of the view that if one of their carers became involved with an elderly person sooner rather than later then the result was often the avoidance of a crisis. At Emmersons Solicitors, we know it is often a crisis that leads to someone being hospitalised or forced into a care setting. Taking steps early enough to avoid this situation can often lead to better health outcomes. Loneliness is said to increase depression, and, it is believed, dementia. In fact, the same newspaper as above carried an article which stated that NICE ware encouraging GPs to actively encourage the lonely to become involved in choirs and dancing groups.
The agency that were training us said that they had clients who wanted to be taken out to their usual sports clubs, one client wanted to be taken on full day trips.
The other funding available from the NHS is full care. If it can be proven, from assessments, that this is necessary for a patient then all their care home fees must be paid by the NHS. It may be that they can stay in their own home but with a round the clock package. It takes someone who knows what they are doing to make the right application for this type of funding and to battle through the system to obtain it.
Notably, you will want the right person to be helping you with all of this. That is why you should consider appointing an attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney. This must be someone that you trust. Often it will be your spouse and your child or children. Their role is to manage your affairs as if they were you. However, you must be given every opportunity to have your say. Even if you have the early stages of dementia it is still often possible to appoint an attorney on your behalf. The test is whether you have sufﬁcient mental capacity to understand the particular decision that you are making and at the point that you need to make the decision. Sometimes we have clients who can’t understand what they are doing, because they may be severely dehydrated which can affect mental capacity. However, the next week they are perfectly able to give instructions.
If you combine the issues: the appointment of someone to help you as your attorney, and the knowledge that you are entitled to receive ﬁnance to obtain help then you stand a greater chance of remaining in your own home for the rest of your life. Even if there is no funding available now, you are entitled to be reassessed if your health deteriorates. In the meantime, if you can afford it, you can pay for a private agency to help you in your own home. You can contract to have as little as one hour per week of support from them.
Author: Jacqueline Emmerson