This article briefly considers everything you need to take into account when caring for elderly relatives. We examine:
- What options there are for elderly relatives
- Funding the care plan
- Acting as a carer for elderly relatives
- Moving to a residential or care home
There comes a time when many elderly relatives need some help – either because of physical problems such as illnesses/disabilities or other difficulties like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Many families struggle in both providing the care and support that they so desperately need or paying for professional assistance. In this article, we look at the options open to you before giving information about the financial help which is available to fund caring for elderly relatives.
What options are there when caring for elderly relatives?
There are many different options for caring for elderly relatives, and the one you choose ultimately depends on how much help they need. They vary from allowing them to remain in their home but with occasional visits from a carer to arranging their stay in a residential care or nursing home where they can be supervised 24/7.
Their needs might change over time too. What is suitable for them when a condition is first diagnosed isn’t necessarily appropriate 5 years later. Before making a decision, it’s important that their own preferences are taken into account as far as possible, and that all members of the family are consulted.
Assessing the care elderly people need
Before you can decide on the best care plan, it’s important to carry out a carer needs (or community care) assessment. This can be done by the social services department of your local authority free of charge. A home visit by a professional can define what practical support is possible (such as installing a stair lift or adapting the bathroom), or whether it’s no longer feasible for your relative to live independently.
Questions on elderly care in the UK
According to official statistics, in 2016 the population in the UK was 65.6 million. The UK population is getting older with 18% aged over 64 and 2.4% aged over 85. These figures reveal that over 20% of the UK population is elderly, or over 13 million citizens in absolute figures.
In the United Kingdom, over 400,000 pensioners live in care homes. This includes 16% of the population who are ages 85 or over. However, no official statistical figures exist for those citizens who are elderly and live in retirement housing.
While care homes are not generally a free commodity in the UK, the NHS may contribute towards the cost of your care if your needs are primarily health based. If you are eligible for the NHS continuing your healthcare, care home placements are free. You Personal Expenses Allowance can otherwise go toward paying care home costs.
Funding the care plan
As part of the care plan, the local authority can also carry out a financial assessment as they might be eligible for financial help. This is means-tested and depends on the savings and assets which your relative has.
If they have more than £23,250 in savings, then they won’t be entitled to any financial assistance, whilst under £14,250 will entitle them to the full package. Any savings between this upper and lower limit are calculated according to a tariff system which approximately works out at a £1 contribution for every £250 of savings in their name.
Having said this, any money they pay for care must not leave them with less money to live on than the Pension Guarantee Credit entitlement with a 25% buffer. In 2018-19, this is £220.50 a week for single people and £329.75 a week for couples.
Acting as a carer for elderly relatives
Many people voluntarily choose to care for elderly relatives by themselves – either by visiting them in their own home or bringing them to live in their own. Although this has many benefits for the relative (especially not being cared for by a stranger), it also places a great deal of strain on you and can affect your personal life and possibly even your career. It isn’t a decision which should be taken lightly.
The state provide a carer’s allowance for anyone (related or not) who spends more than 35 hours a week in their role as a carer and who earns under £120 a week. This allowance is £64.40 a week (with a £10 Christmas bonus).
Even if you aren’t entitled to this allowance, you should find out about carer’s credit. If you care for someone for more than 20 hours a week and are under state pension age, you can have National Insurance contributions made on your behalf. Although it isn’t a cash-in-hand sum, it is equally important as it means you won’t have any gaps in your NI record which could prevent you receiving a full state pension in the future.
Other options for the elderly
If you feel that your relative’s home is too big for their needs, you might consider the possibility of them downsizing. At this stage, many elderly people might go into sheltered accommodation. Some find this the ideal solution since it allows them to retain their independence but still have help, support and companionship when they need it.
On average, the cost of a residential home is £600 a week whilst a nursing home costs £841 because of the greater care and monitoring which is necessary.
If your own home is too small to accommodate a relative, you might choose to move and use the money from the sale of both houses to buy a bigger one for you all or rent a larger home. Although it might seem a good idea, it is recommended that you consult a financial advisor before taking this step. It might have implications for inheritance, tax and even their pension. Also, you must make sure that a financial agreement is in place about living expenses and how much you expect your relative to contribute. For example, a set amount every week/month.
Moving to a residential or nursing home
When the needs of your relative are so great that they need constant professional help, you might decide it is time for them to move into a residential or nursing home. There are currently 430,000 people in such homes in the UK. They offer many advantages, but they can also be extremely expensive. The price you pay depends on the degree of care that your relative needs and the part of the country you live. On average, the cost of a residential home is £600 a week whilst a nursing home costs £841 because of the greater care and monitoring which is necessary. Despite this, only 41% of residents are fully self-funded and the rest receive some financial assistance either from their local authority or from the NHS (which isn’t means-tested.)
Conclusion – Support for elderly relatives
Watching a loved one in pain or with mental anguish because of age-related medical conditions or disabilities can be an extremely distressing experience. Before you make decisions, it’s important that you receive the right advice – either from health professionals, the social services or both. Apart from the much-needed psychological support, they will be able to give you advice on which financial assistance is available for you and your elderly relative. With all the emotional upheaval you’ll be experiencing, the last thing you need is the additional worry about how to pay for the care they need and deserve.