Don't get caught in the care fees trap; FUNDING SYSTEM IS UNFAIR AND FAR TOO COMPLICATED.
MORE than a million people have been forced to sell their homes to pay care fees. Tens of thousands more are unable to pass their homes on to children as local authorities take charges out against properties that have to be paid when parents die.
Putting your parents in a care home is a tough enough decision. It's stressful and emotionally charged.
But sorting out the finances to fund their care can cause a financial headache that lasts for years afterwards.
The average cost of a UK nursing home is PS738 per week - that's almost PS40,000 a year.
The problem is the current funding system is unfair. It hits those who have worked their whole lives, spent their money wisely and put a bit aside for a rainy day.
And the process is so complicated that few people understand what help is available and who is entitled to it as they get passed from pillar to post of NHS departments with no single source of guidance.
Some people are eligible for some level of funding from their local authority but this is means tested and thresholds are very low. This means that to qualify for long-term care funding, you need to be on a low income and own little or no assets.
Anyone who owns their own home is usually exempt. But many families struggle needlessly to come up with the cash as there is full funding available from the NHS - although few people know about it.
This is known as NHS Continuing Care and is not means tested. It is based on assessments of healthcare needs and includes things like how mobile they are, and the severity of their condition.
Just 58,000 people currently receive continuing care funding but it is believed this is just the tip of the iceberg and more than 150,000 are actually entitled to it.
Andrew Farley of Farley Dwek, a specialist care funding solicitors, says: "Families are spending billions on care home fees unnecessarily.
"They often struggle to secure the funding because they are given short notice by their local NHS to attend a complex funding assessment meeting.
"Crucial decisions are made that could spell the difference between paying nothing or paying PS700 a week.
"We are representing hundreds of families seeking to ensure their entitlement to NHS continuing healthcare funding is being properly assessed, or recovering fees on behalf of those who have already unfairly paid for care.
"Anyone who has a continuing care funding assessment coming up should take a professional along who understands how the system works to ensure they get a fair hearing and the outcome is fair and right.
"The NHS has made too many mistakes regarding care home funding and it is important you get the funding you are entitled to."
The basics are that you need to monitor changes in your loved ones on a regular basis. People's care needs change as conditions get worse and they become more frail.
The things you should watch out for include changes in mobility, cognition, communication skills, continence or their behaviour.
Andrew adds: "In order to potentially qualify for continuing care funding there needs to be an assessment of the nature, intensity, complexity and unpredictability of the change in health. It's important that official continuing care assessments are carried out by the NHS - and are carried out fairly and accurately."
TOP TIPS TO AVOID CARE HOME FEES
Be proactive - the sooner you place all your assets in a trust the more likely it is that this strategy can protect wealth further down the line. Remember, trusts are not 100% guaranteed but offer an extra level of protection should you or a relative need to enter a care home.
Apply for continuing care funding - you can apply yourself for continuing care funding but it's hugely complex and specialist advisers can guide you through the process to ensure that if you're eligible you can receive it
Ensure you have full access to your parents' medical records - before and during a stay in a nursing home. To get this you will require the legal capacity to act. This will help you to monitor changes in the healthcare needs of your parents which may affect care funding criteria.
Understand the records - when called to an assessment ensure you have an understanding of all key paperwork including GP records, medical assessments and the assessment criteria used.
Be assertive - don't take no for an answer from your local NHS. Many mistakes have been made and millions of pounds have been repaid to families as a result. Seek professional advice.
For a free guide on claiming care home fees visit: farleydwek.com
CARE BY NUMBERS
66 WEEKS average length of stay in nursing home
PS738 average weekly cost of a nursing home
58,000 people currently receive continuing care funding from the NHS
PS60,000 average amount saved by families after successful Continuing Care Assessments
150,000 numbers entitled to continuing care funding
ONE MILLION homes have been sold in the last five years to pay for care home fees
CHANGES TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Psychological and emotional needs
Altered states of consciousness
Any other significant care needs
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