/ Health

Is it fair that care homes charge after the death of a resident?

empty care bed

There’s a widespread practice of care homes charging fees after a resident’s death. Our guest Douglas Cooper explains why the Competition and Markets Authority is keen to get your views and experiences to help inform its consultation into the practice.

Many of you will know that we undertook a review of the care home sector to see if it was working well for those who rely on it. In fact, many of you would have shared your stories and experiences of care with Which? and ultimately us at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) too.

We are currently carrying out a consumer law investigation into the fees charged by some care home providers following the death of a resident.

Action against care homes

We are already taking forward action against certain care homes who we think unfairly charge fees for extended periods after a resident’s death.

This follows our year-long market study of the residential care home market for the elderly, which found that charging fees after death is widespread across the sector and that practices vary.

For example, we found that some providers do not charge fees, or only charge for a short period after the death of a self-funded resident, whilst others charge fees for up to a month.

Our investigation has already resulted in a major care home provider, Maria Mallaband Care Group, deciding to stop using a contract term requiring the payment of one month’s fees following the death of a resident who paid for their own care.

What do care homes need to do?

Now, in order to ensure that all care homes take a consistent and lawful approach to the charging of fees after death, we are consulting on advice for the sector as a whole, setting out what we think care homes need to do to comply with their obligations under consumer law.

This includes our views on whether it’s fair to charge fees after death and, if so, for how long.

Dealing with the death of a close relative or friend can be a difficult time emotionally. As part of our consultation, we are particularly keen to hear from relatives, or representatives, of elderly residents who have passed away while in a care or nursing home.

Tell us your views

If this is something you have experienced, we’d be really grateful if you would help us with our work by completing this short questionnaire – it will help to inform our final advice to care homes. The consultation closes on 16 February.

This is a guest contribution by Douglas Cooper of the CMA. All views expressed here are the CMA’s and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

What’s your experience of the care home sector? Have you had to deal with paying fees after the death of a loved one – and did you think they were fair?

If you’d like to share sensitive personal experiences in the comments below, please remember you can choose to do so using an alias and omit anything identifiable.

Comments

I don’t have any experience with care homes, but hospitals also need to be included.

My father-in-law died unexpectedly in hospital. The following day the hospital telephoned and told us that as we was dead, he was no longer in the NHS and if we didn’t move the body, they would charge us storage.

We were already in shock and could not believe their uncaring, insensitive attitude that added further distress at this very difficult time.

I managed to find a local care home that had several unfurnished flats. It gave her more space and allowed her to have her own possessions rather than a typical room in a care home. She was able to walk across for meals with residents of the care home. It seemed an excellent solution and I was able to call in to see her after work.

She had to go into hospital because she picked up an infection but someone made a mistake with treatment and she never returned. Very soon after her death the care home manager approached me about clearing the flat of my mother’s furniture. I pointed out that I had the charges had been paid in advance and that covered two more weeks. Up until that point I could not fault the care home but they knew that my mother’s death had been very traumatic and I could not believe that anyone would be so insensitive.

Wavechange-Not any more insensitive than the local council my mother lived in. A few weeks after her death we got a bill for £14 due to “over-payment ” I never got any “over-payment ” but as it had the backing of council lawyers I had to travel 114 miles(228 round trip ) to the council offices to straighten it out . Even then I still had to pay , it cost me much more in petrol as I had to go through a big city –at a crawl.

Patrick Taylor says:
3 February 2018

I have a degree of concern that having established that care homes and the NHS are both under severe pressure financially and resourcewise it now appears a campaign is being launched which hopefully will codify behaviour across the sector.

The danger I foresee is that the answer most acceptable to consumers will be one that adversly affects the operations of the care homes. Fast room clearance is beneficial not only to the finances of the care home but also to answering the shortage of choice in the sector.

Big demo in London today Patrick marching against NHS cuts filled with doctors /nurses . The Peoples Assembly and Healthcare organisation are out protesting . This isnt some “leftist ” organisation but filled with middle-class doctors etc . They are arguing against shareholders and bankers bonuses and waste . I support their cause -full stop.

I think that some care homes get a ‘kickback’ from certain funeral directors. I was phoned in the early hours of the morning to be told that my mother had died. They said that they would like to have her body removed before the other residents were awake, and suggested that they should get in touch with a funeral director themselves, to arrange it. I was disgusted at their lack of compassion, and told them that I would make my own arrangements. I have been told by several people that other care homes have made the same offer to them. It sounds as though some people are being slipped the proverbial ‘brown envelope!’

Your right there BH , plenty of cases of this on other websites .

Patrick Taylor says:
3 February 2018

I think that perhaps you tarring a logical practice with a cynical brush. I have no doubt that a home will have a good working relationship with a funeral director who is reliable and knows there way around a particular home.

The desire to have the removal carried out discreetly in order not to upset other residents I think is humane.

If one wishes to make arrangements ahead of time and agree with the home and an undertaker of your choice then I do not see why this should not be discussed early in the process. The home of course having some say in the matter as they may have better information than you on reliability or the practicalities involved.

Is there a kickback in place. Maybe, maybe not. It could depend on many factors distance being one, sufficient storage room, or perhaps a rotation around local undertakers. In another job I made sure I ahd more than one supplier of each service inorder that if someone failed to perform I had an alternative firm or even two who could take up the rogue companies jobs.

I am not convinced that a specialist provider necessarily needs to pay for custom.

I don’t personally see a problem with a care home providing a quick and discreet removal of a body to a suitable place and would have welcomed it when my parents died as it would have taken off some of the pressure. It doesn’t stop the family from employing their own funeral contractors to collect the body from the other funeral contractor’s premises just as they would have done from a care home, hospital or mortuary.

I would not expect the average care home to have a suitable accommodation for dead bodies so employing a preferred contractor to deal with it professionally seems like a good idea. I would expect the home to have negotiated a trade rate for such a service [possibly by tendering] and pass it onto the family without any extra charge.

In the overall scheme of things and considering the costs of the average funeral, the extra cost of the double transfer is not significant. If someone dies at home unexpectedly or without medical attention they have to be transferred to a public mortuary for a post mortem examination; the cost of that all has to be met and might involve a long-distance transfer in both directions.

Mum has only been in her care home for just over 4 months but the contract states they charge up to 7 days after a death. It would take at least that long for me to remove her belongings so I think that’s probably about fair. Shame on any home that charges unfairly though. There should be rules in place to prevent that!

What seems to be lacking in the rebuttals to BH,s post , its called the HUMAN factor , I am afraid I am not the cold calculating sort but when MY mother had to be buried I !!! not any third party especially getting kick-backs has the right to decide this in law or in the deep emotion of a loved one in many “care”-home stories posted here . What do you think my mother was -a dog ! and yes they get better treatment in this country than old ill human beings . Many posters on this subject had loved ones who were very close to them and to think of their loved ones dead bodies as dumpster fodder is I am afraid lacking in any emotional content . This isn’t a convo on BSI Standards .

The CMA has actually suggested a cap on charges for three days after a resident’s death. That seems a little short to me, as it will inevitably lead care homes to put pressure on the next of kin to arrange for clearance of their relative’s possessions in an unreasonably short timescale, especially if they live a long way away. A few extra days care home charges does not seem unreasonable for relatives to meet – and it might already have been paid anyway depending on the terms.

I think the three-day period is designed primarily for local authorities who are funding the resident’s occupation of a home. I have no objection to that because it would be an unnecessary public expense to prolong the charge after the resident has died. The important thing is for these matters to be handled with compassion, respect and dignity, as well as with consideration for the other residents in a home who might also be grieving even if the management isn’t.

The typical image of care homes is not unlike bed-&-breakfast accommodation run by an energetic couple and a handful of staff struggling to make ends meet and provide a reasonable caring environment in the face of a barrage of rules and regulations. The other image is the municipal home where the chairs are all lined up and the overall atmosphere tends towards the impersonal.

I was surprised to read recently that Four Seasons Health Care runs 260 homes and HC-One has 351. Other very big providers are Bupa, Care UK, and Barchester Healthcare. Three of the ‘big five’ providers charge for a fortnight following the death of a resident while one charges for a week. The important thing is that homes should not be charging for two weeks and accepting a new resident into the same accommodation after one week or less. The CMA has expressed concern that firms charging for longer than three days might be receiving multiple payments for the same room. I hope their examination of the private care homes sector makes sure that does not happen. While economies of scale and the potential for higher professional standards are desirable results of having large organisations running care homes they must be careful not to let the tendencies of the big business culture affect the sensitive management of the establishments.

My mother died in a residential home. The terms required either 4 weeks notice of termination of residence, or the payment of 4 weeks fees. I expected to pay but the home waived the payment. My mother had received excellent care in her final days, more typical of what a nursing home would have provided. I was most grateful for this and donated a sum equal to 4 weeks fees.

How did the care Home waiver the costs? Nans contract said 4 weeks notice which is complete nonsense as she was certainly not in any fit state to move to any other home. Room was cleared within days and management are unprepared to make any kind of reduction

Has anybody read the full report on anti-psychotic drugs being supplied to many dementia patients in US care home “to keep them quiet ” ? This is even when its pain they are complaining about , it is usually in medicaid homes ( state helped ) 16 % of US care homes use them even against regulations . I have the full report by Human Rights Watch a USA organisation so I can go into detail if required . As you know those drugs applied to people who have Schizophrenia etc are life shortening drugs with many side effects which , in old frail people have already upped the death count there . I want an answer from those putting forward the case for “all is well ” in care homes in the UK — does or does it not happen here ? As I am criticized and told -facts-facts- facts – thats exactly what I want -no prevarication , no weasel words just the plain truth from a spokesperson – yes or no? If it is not provided then I take it as read it does happen here.

Rachel says:
7 April 2018

Yes we have just been given a bill for 4 weeks after my Grandmothers death, the room was cleared of all belongings within 3 days of death. Bank account is suspended due to probate. We have contacted management to ask if bill can be reduced under circumstances only to be told no, we now have to find 3.5k next week!!! Unfair charges especially when some care homes only charge a week.

My mother’s care home are seeking to charge two weeks fees as from the date of her death. She had few possessions at the home and we cleared out her room on the date of her death. I have queried wh
y the care home has not complied with the advice of the CMA with regard to charging post death (i.e. 3 days after death if the room is cleared). They have responded saying I signed a contract and those are the terms and have failed to respond to any comments about the CMA’s advice to care homes. They are a large care home provider who were one of the original consultees when the CMA drafted their recommendations.

In addition, we have been charged £495 for redecoration and recarpeting of the room which my mother occupied for approximately 6 months. I have asked for confirmation that the room has been redecorated and recarpeted but the care home has failed to provide this confirmation. It was evident that the room had not been redecorated or recarpeted for some time when my mother took occupation.