It is predicted that one in four adults in Britain will be pensioners by 2020, with those aged over 75 expected to double in the next 30 years. This rise in the number of elderly members of society is placing a serious strain on the care sector, as without adequate government funding, it is being forced to slash services and limit their help to only those with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs.
Understanding the cost of caring and the various options available, and being able to plan appropriately, is essential if we want to ensure our loved ones have the best possible care in their later years.
The thought of getting older and not being able to cope is something most of us don’t want to think about, either for ourselves or for our loved ones. And therefore, all too often, a situation becomes critical and decisions have to be made quickly resulting in badly considered choices that have negative impacts both in terms of providing the most appropriate care solution and the financial implications.
Worryingly, data from Deloitte LPP and the Alzheimer’s Society show many members of the public are not aware of how social care is actually funded. Most people, particularly those who had little experience of social care, thought it was funded in a similar way to the NHS or that they would be able to draw on an entitlement based on National Insurance contributions. They also assumed that state-funded care would be provided to most people, with the government paying for at least some, or even all, of the care people need in older age.
First steps to considering social care
Access to social care is becoming increasingly dependent on what the elderly and their family can afford, rather than what they actually need. The amount to be paid depends on the level of need and the amount of assets an individual has.
The first step should be contacting the adult social services department of the local council so the person in question can be assessed. A social care professional will visit the individual and review their routine, requirements and speak to other health professionals who care for them, before issuing a care plan that outlines their care needs and what would help to meet those needs.
The next stage is a means test to decide how much the individual needs to contribute towards their care and support. To do this their local council looks at their income, savings and property to calculate how much they need to contribute. If they have savings of more than £23,500, they probably will not be entitled to any financial help towards their fees.
Having understood how much financial assistance an individual is entitled to, deciding the form your social care will take is the next step.
As evidenced by the estimated six million unpaid caregivers in the UK (three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in the UK), caring for an elderly loved one in their own home is often the only solution. Even this comes with financial costs with home renovations, such as stairlifts, easy-access showers, handrails and ramps.
In fact, 60% of carers will have used all their savings to cover the costs of care, while one in five carers will give up work in order to provide care.
There is also a cost to caregivers own well-being; 70% of older carers say that being a carer has an adverse effect on their mental health, while 45% of younger carers reported that they have mental health problems.
Another option is domiciliary care, when a professional carer provides an individual with care in their own home, usually charged on an hourly basis. Typically, this costs between £10 – £30 an hour (The UK Care Guide estimated the average hourly rate for a carer was £18), while overnight care increases the cost and is often charged at a nightly rate, typically over £100 per night. At £18 per hour, and just two hours a day Monday to Friday, a year’s worth of care would cost £9,360.
Taking that a step further is a 24/7 live-in carer, which allows an elderly loved one to remain in their home – a preferred option in many cases, as evidenced by a 2009 survey that reported 44% of over 65s were worried about having to move into a care home. In fact, more of the survey respondents were afraid of losing their independence as they grow older (49%) than of dying (29%). The cost of live-in carers will vary based on a carergiver’s experience and a patients’ medical needs. Typically costs start at around £850 per week, which equates to £44,200 a year.
Care home costs
Moving into a care home can actually be a more cost-effective solution than a 24/7 live-in carer. Ahough a room in a care home can cost in excess of £50,000 a year (closer to £60,000 depending on specific medical conditions), these costs include most other services and daily needs such as meals, physical care, medical tests and so on.
Personal alarm options
A more practical and affordable solution to the social care crisis in the UK, particularly as an early stage starting point, could be a telecare service that provides a personal alarm. For the cost of a cup of coffee a personal alarm provider can alleviate many of the concerns and worries held by both an elderly loved one and their relatives.
An elderly personal alarm is a lightweight device worn discreetly as a bracelet, wristband or pendant and is wirelessly connected to an alarm base unit that detects when the button on the personal alarm is pressed and quickly connects to a 24-hour emergency response centre. The response team will know who the wearer is and have access to any medical information they have shared and try to speak with the wearer over the alarm’s speaker to assess the situation. Based on the situation, the response team can provide help and advice or contact keyholders or the emergency services on their behalf.
The cost of care in the UK is currently two-fold; its affordability has been savaged by years of austerity leaving many parents and grandparents without the support they need, forcing family and friends to make up the shortfall. This in turn has created a society where one in ten Britons are now caregivers, the majority of which are unpaid, putting strain on their own mental and financial well-being.
If you’re looking for a potential solution, more and more families are turning to telecare services and personal alarms for the elderly as their primary source of social care and peace of mind. Not only can relatives rest easy with the knowledge that their elderly loved one is being monitored 24/7, but the care recipient is able to remain living in their own home and preserve their independence for a great deal longer than might otherwise be the case.