/ Health

What I wish I’d known about finding a care home

As a care sector worker and a carer for a relative who needed residential care, Carol Land has experienced the care system from both sides. She explains why she still struggled to navigate the system when she needed it most.

When someone needs care, it’s often because of a medical crisis and it strikes you like a bolt out of the blue – something that’s never been discussed with the loved one concerned.

This was certainly true in my case. After a nasty fall, my stepmother sustained a broken arm and leg wound. It became clear that she had dementia, which she had masked and had gone undetected for some time. Prior to the fall she had been out and about and was still driving.

Caught up in a broken care system

It felt like the symptoms became the issue of focus, rather than treating the actual person. My stepmother and the family were told what should happen; I don’t feel like anyone sought her views, and decisions were being made on her behalf as they said ‘she did not have the capacity’ to make them herself.

We were her next of kin, but because we lived quite a distance away, assessments were undertaken without my knowledge or involvement. It was almost a fait accompli that she could not go home and needed residential care.

Most people have no knowledge of the complexities of arranging care for someone before they need it, so it’s very difficult to get the right answers when you don’t know the right questions to ask.

I thought that working in this field would’ve put me at an advantage in this situation, but even though I knew my way around the care system it wasn’t easy, and I felt like things still went wrong.

The situation was made more difficult for me because decisions had to be made in a very short space of time. It’s a huge responsibility to take away someone’s liberty, which is what care arrangers are essentially being asked to do.

Rushed decisions and broken communication

The communication between health professionals and social care professionals left a lot to be desired. We also found that information often got lost between the two.

Healthcare professionals didn’t seem concerned with funding issues; they just needed the bed back. However, social care professionals seemed only concerned with cost. I felt as though they weren’t interested if you have savings or are a homeowner; they see you as a self-funder who can make decisions yourself.

But it’s a daunting task when you’re self-funding care and deciding what levels of care are needed. This is an area that the vast majority of people have no knowledge of and there are some big implications to consider.

For example, we worried about what happens when the money falls below the threshold – will the home take Local Authority funding? None of this was mentioned to me and I wouldn’t have even thought to ask the questions about this without prior knowledge from my job.

A care system in crisis

I know I’m not the first person to experience problems when arranging care – and I certainly won’t be the last. You only have to look at the figures to see that the care system is in crisis.

The care home population is already bigger than the City of Manchester, with 433,000 people in care. What’s really frightening is the scale of the problem. It’s estimated that there will be over seven million over-75s by 2025, with more than 70,000 extra elderly care beds needed within that time frame. If the system is under strain now, how will it cope by then?

I’m fully supporting the Which? campaign calling on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to confront the creaking care system, and I’d urge everyone else to as well. After all, even if you have no experiences like mine to speak of, it will come to us all eventually.

This is a guest contribution by Carol Land. All views expressed here are Carol’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

What kind of battles did you face when arranging care for a loved one? Have you made provisions for your own care or are you too daunted and confused to know where to start?

Comments

I have not, as yet, had to deal with the care system. However, as Carol points out, it can (will) suddenly arise and you have to gather information (if you have time) and make decisions (inexpertly) that can have a life-changing effect upon the person concerned.

There seem to be too issues to confront. One is the availability of information that can be easily assimilated, to decide on an appropriate care home, aided by reliable and independent advice on suitability, cost and funding available. The second is to identify what we actually think a care system should be, how it should best be operated, and where the funding should come from. Plus, the way it is monitored to ensure people get proper and respectful care.

It is, of course, OK to campaign for “better care” but I think at the same time we, and Which? should be prepared to put proposals forward that can be used as a basis for discussing better care provision, and not just leave it to “others” (whoever they might be) to put things right.

John Tait says:
27 November 2017

I think once you do have to deal with the Care System Malcolm you might find that the standard and availability of care will come as a shock

The basic point is insurmountable as it is all down to cost . I am referring to the poor , as I have been criticised for my “overzealous ” campaigning I will restrict my comments but what is the practical answer to the poor getting a “poor ” service which has always been my point . Will some Great Guru come out with an answer that pleases 99 % of the public? remembering this was a social service but is now a privatised profit making industry.

Not all, Duncan. There is a growing number of Charity-run and owned care homes, and there’s also a lot of council-run homes. But as the topic header says the need for a care home can present abruptly.

It’s much easier if the symptoms and signs present earlier and gradually, because that affords time to investigate options. But I would also argue that care homes should be run by the state and not by private groups, although many were started by groups of Doctors,

Richard Gully says:
29 November 2017

Whilst I agree there are serious failures with Care often due to inadequate funding levels.
( The NHS and Social care funding should be amalgamated into one funding stream, to reduce “bed blocking”)
My wife suffered a brain seizure in October 2015, she waited 3 months for them to find a nursing home that could meet her various needs whilst the hospital continued to give good care.
January 2016 the Solent Grange Nursing Home in the Isle of Wight became available and my wife has been there to date.
She has received excellent care throughout, every member of staff are friendly and always available to discuss her treatment. Her records of care are always available for me to read and ask questions.
Her room is spotlessly clean and the food is varied and of a good standard.
As an aside we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in Solent Grange which they provided a room for guests and a wonderful buffet. We have been made to feel part of the home “Family”
Yes we have been very fortunate in the choice of home, which I would thoroughly recommend.
I would also point out that we are not privately funding, her care has been funded by the NHS due to her considerable medical needs.

Carol Thornton says:
29 November 2017

My mother and my aunt were both in care homes in the Salisbury area for a while, before they died. The home that my mother was in, was not very close to home as she had to be admitted in a hurry. She was very happy there and the staff were lovely. We visited at least twice a week and never had any concerns. The home available for my aunt was closer and again she settled in very well. She was in bed all the time and she spent her days happily doing word searches. The staff were friendly and went out of their way to get her certain foods that she preferred and also made us very welcome whenever we visited. Neither my mother or my aunt had sufficient funds to pay for their keep but were treated in an exemplary manner.