By Dominique Kent.
What to consider when caring for elderly parents
As we reach midlife, looking ahead to the future taking account of our parents’ needs isn’t exactly something we embrace. Many of us are going full steam ahead with our careers, the demands of a home or maybe being a ‘taxi’ for our sociable teenagers and – let’s face it – we don’t really want to think about caring for elderly parents when they lose their independence.
Truth is, the head in the sand approach doesn’t work. It’s a fact that as our parents age they’ll either need extra support to do everyday things or they may need 24/7 care – all of which comes at a price.
Just as we should plan ahead for our own financial futures, it’s important to sit down and discuss financial matters with our parents too, especially as sorting out the practicalities surrounding care fees can be difficult and very stressful if left to the last minute. Obviously it’s a sensitive and emotive subject and should be handled carefully.
You may have heard your mother or father say they want to stay at home and remain independent for as long as possible. When the time comes, no doubt we’ll also want to remain in familiar surroundings, with friends and family nearby or with beloved pets.
Most people think residential care is the only option when a parent is unable to live alone any more and lack of research means you won’t have knowledge of alternative care options. Where little financial planning has taken place, consequently worse-case care solutions are often sought and it’s easy to see how family finances can plunge into free-fall.
When Shenka Christmas’s mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and her father became increasingly frail, she realised they needed extra care and support at home. In Shenka’s case, the situation was made even more stressful as she has no siblings to share the responsibility and lives about two hours from her parents. She urges others to think ahead for making the financial commitment as she hadn’t made any arrangements and had to put care in place quickly.
Afterwards, she sought advice from an independent financial advisor who gave her valuable guidance on funding later-life live-in care for her parents. Shenka organised an annuity to pay for live-in care for her parents, which means the care is covered for as long as it’s needed.
So, where do you to start? The first step is to think about what the ‘ideal world’ care setting would be in a variety of scenarios and then talk to a specialist financial advisor who will be able to work with you to discuss all the conceivable options and explore the implications of each, sometimes creating a previously unknown solution.
Recent research from the The Live-in Homecare Information Hub* discovered that many people aren’t aware of the costs involved in later-life care and are floundering with their financial planning and leaving it to the eleventh hour. Its report, No Place Like Home*, found that with such a significant financial outlay on the horizon, less than 2 per cent of people speak to a professional adviser who is a specialist in ‘later life’ to research and can help arrange good quality care.
Most people don’t have the foggiest idea how much it costs; the report found that many think care charges are either ‘between £251 and £500 per week’ (21.4%) or ‘between £501 and £1,000 per week’ (22.5%), although in reality – whether it’s for residential care homes – or 24/7 live-in homecare, fees start from about £750 per week for carers and around £1,400 per week for nursing care.
Depending on individual circumstances, you may be able to purchase an ‘immediate care plan’: a dedicated and potentially tax-free product designed to cover all or part of a person’s care fees. This type of specialist financing can be funded from existing savings, a low interest mortgage, or other alternatives.
You’ve probably read stories about equity release in the news and it might seem like a quick fix, but it’s extremely expensive, meaning there may be less money in the estate when your parents pass away. So this option has pros and cons.
As a matter of routine the specialist advisor will also give guidance on practicalities such as first checking whether there are state benefits that can be claimed. Not all are means tested or taxed. Attendance Allowance, for instance, is available to anyone over 65 who has needed care with essential daily tasks for longer than six months.
Shenka also encourages anyone with elderly parents to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place before their parents start to lose mental capacity. This will give you the power to act legally on your parent(s) behalf for either financial and property matters, or for decisions on welfare and medical treatment.
- The Live-in Homecare Information Hub – this website provides information about live-in homecare, the essentials, care options, as well as finance and legal advice.
- Independent financial advisers, specialising in later life care should be a first port of call. Symponia (featured also here) is a collective membership body of invited specialist advisers.
- Care To Be Different is an online information resource offering practical information on NHS Continuing Healthcare funding and on the assessment process for this funding.
* A nationally representative survey of adults was commissioned by The Live-In Homecare Information Hub via market research specialist Censuswide during January 2015. 1,040 over 16 year olds were surveyed. The ‘No Place Like Home’ report is available to download for free here.
You may also like Parents and Alzheimer’s – Who’s The Child Now?, When Roles Reverse – Looking After Older Parents, A Different Perspective on Care Options in Old Age.
Dominique Kent is Director of Operations at The Good Care Group, one of the founder members of The Live-in Homecare Information Hub. Dominique worked with Shenka to provide live-in care for her parents.