/ Health

The truth about long-term care – pay up or be ignored

Elderly lady looking sad

Long-term care has seldom been out of the headlines in the last few years. And no wonder – the system’s at absolute breaking point. And if you’ve run out of money, you’re often treated as invisible.

Thousands of people who require help to stay in their own homes in their later years are being dismissed by local councils as a result of a “needs assessment”.

Only those judged to have “critical” or “substantial” needs are eligible to receive formal assistance – those judged “moderate” or “low” are effectively ignored.

Running out of money

For those who move to a care home, a strict means testing system forces a high percentage to pay their own fees (to the tune of £30-50,000 a year) until their life savings and the value of their house have all but been exhausted.

For about a quarter of these “self-funders”, running out of money is a real concern. If this happens, they end up falling back on local authority support, facing the potential distress of having to move to a cheaper care home or getting their family to pay top-up fees to help them stay where they are.

We recently investigated how closely local authorities monitored self-funders in residential care and found that nearly half were unable to say how many there were in their area. Even more of them had no record of self-funders that ended up reliant on them after running out of money. These people seem to be off the radar.

Changes are afoot

It doesn’t have to be like this. A government-sponsored investigation into long-term care (the Dilnot report) recently stated that councils should be helping out self-funders by providing more information on how to pay for care and where to get proper financial advice.

We agree – and were pleased to find pockets of best practice, such as Buckinghamshire County Council, which has run a pioneering scheme with suitably qualified independent financial advisers (IFAs). West Sussex is also launching a new service with IFAs who belong to the Society of Later Life Advisers.

Both authorities hope that fewer people in their area will suffer the anxiety of running out of money and that less will fall back on the state, placing additional pressure on their already over-stretched resources.

Dilnot also proposes other reforms, such as a cap on the amount each individual will have to pay for their care and more generous means-testing limits. The government is currently considering the commission’s suggestions but after a decade of headlines and good intentions it’s surely time to act?

Have you had to arrange self-funded care? How easy did you find it to get good advice and how would you improve the system? Those in care have been invisible for too long – it’s time to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.


They will not get the recognition they deserve until the whole country values the elderly – At the moment they don’t – I was promised “care from cradle to grave” in 1948 – Total and utter lies – This present Govt lies about “cuts not affecting long term care” are now seen to BE lies.

The only solution is an affordable cap on cost – say a single payment of say £20,000 – or of course starve or die of hypothermia – just as the old did BEFORE the NHS.

Remember the cuts have only just started to bite – Looking forward to four more years of discontent?

The care for the elderly is a total disgrace.

Elaine Pendrill says:
23 October 2011

I am not surprised at your findings regarding local authorities. My mother is 90 and has alzheimers. She lives in the London Borough of Sutton whose attitude is that because she has savings of more than £23,500 they are not interested in her at all. I have received no help with on going care, or day centres. They do issue a booklet, but it lists all day centres and does not differentiate them as to their purpose. It is left to the carer to find out which one would be suitable. As for residential care, again it seems that anyone can pay to advertise in their booklet. Some of the homes I have visited were absolutely disgusting. Social Services do not have a case file for her. For all they know I could be mistreating her! She is a very vunerable elderly women and if it wasnt for my constant care I dread to think how she would be living at this moment. I have managed to find wonderful private care in her own home but it has taken me three years of extreme stress to get to this point.

Linda says:
18 May 2012

As with Elaine, I have found that if a person has in excess of £23,250 the social services are not interested. I keep telling them that I am not asking for financial help but help to negotiate the minefield that is care for the elderly. Mum was in a local privately run home, which I have no complaints about at all. However, when she deteoriated mentally the home was not able to keep her because they were only registered for residential and nursing care. In the end mum was sectioned and has spent over 8 mths in the care of the NHS with no financial contribution on her part. She is in a community unit for the elderly, which seems very similar to a care home and she is well looked after, with a good ratio of staff. She has had her name down for three private care homes since 4 Sept. and has still not got a room. Isn’t it a ludicrous situation? If she had spent everything as she went along, the local authority would find her a place and she would still pay. Because she has a little money, they won’t help and yet she is being kept for no contribution.
On the other hand a neighbour’s husband is in a private care home (probably the cheapest in our area), his money is down to £14,000 and so she is being asked to pay £200 a week towards his care, yet she has such a small income that she gets pension credit.

At the age of 90 my father-in-law had to go into hospital with a stomach ulcer, having lived alone up to that point with private carers four times a day. When he recovered it was felt he was unable to live alone any longer and Social Services suggested several residential homes for us to visit. As his savings were over £23,500 he was self-funding so after a couple of months of eating into his capital I contacted NHFA (Nursing Home Fees Agency) as recommended by Age Concern. We met with one of their representatives who was extremely helpful and suggested an annuity. He obtained quotes from four well-known insurance companies (all were given the same medical background details, and our requirements of how much was required to meet the fees of the home) and they varied greatly. We realised that at the age of 90 this would be quite a risk as he needed to live for a further two and a half years to break even, but decided for peace of mind it was worth it. Suffice to say he is still alive and will be 98 in December. He is in a home only six miles from where we live in North Yorkshire so we can easily visit. He is well cared for and he, and we, have the security of knowing his financial needs have also been met.

Interesting isn’t it?

Only three comments in five months – only one commenting on the unfairness that the elderly are forced to sell their assets until poverty – whereas the young are treated free.

So apparently very few care about the elderly at all

Sonia Woodley says:
18 March 2012

I read your article regarding self-funding for residential care. Oh, there is so much more to this.

I cared for my mother for 6-months after she developed Alzheimers Disease but I couldnt cope alone as I have to work. I am in my 64th year, am very arthritic and have required major surgery on a few occassions recently. I had to sell mum’s home to cover the cost of residential care for a couple of years. This is just under £3,000 per month. As most of the £3,000 poundsies have been swallowed up I have had to ask for the assistance of Social Care. What a performancer and how unhelpful they can be!! (I was asked if I could sell my home to cover costs. Just a small mid-terrace property)!!

After months, financial assessments, many emails, phone-calls and constant “chasing” I have almost received some assistance to enable mum to stay where she is, with people she knows and who are used to her very special needs. However, because of this assistance, most of her pension will be witheld, even though she will still have to pay for dental treatment, incontinence pads, personal requirements etc. In fact, the sums reveal that she is not really getting much in the way of financial help at all.

If mum had developed schizophrenia, or had broken her leg, her care would have been funded like anyone else, (even if they had not spent all the years paying National Insurance contributions) but because she “caught” Alzheimers, the NHS will no longer fund her care. Apparently the elderly insist on living longer. Still, those who hold the purse strings will be relieved to know that this problem wont last much longer as the sons and daughters who are having to cope with the caring and funding themselves are going to be wiped out before old age if they dont pre-desease their parent/s.

My advice to others is….Do not slave away in order to buy your home. Anything you wish to leave your children, stuff into your matress. Steer clear of Savings Accounts or ISA s as you wont be allowed to keep them. So, spend your hard earned money and enjoy it. If you enjoy your life and own nothing, there is nothing that can be taken away from you and the state will pay for you to receive any care you need in your old age in the same way that other, often non-deserving, people receive that care.

I aplologise about the content of this email but I have been very traumatised and made unwell as a result of the previous couple of years events. Action on mum’s behalf has been relentless and frustrating and I fear for my childrens sanity should my turn come soon.


Sonia Woodley

Emitie says:
31 January 2014

Last comment is dated 18th March 2012. Why has everything gone quiet? I am struggling with the potential discharge from hospital of an 84 year old relative. I would love some up-to-date comment and advice. Some local authority funding looks likely after they take occupational and old-age pension but all the local Nursing Homes have either had the thumbs down from the Care Quality Commission over matters like high turnover of staff, with which they cannot immediately (or ever) comply, or seriously high fees. The high fees mean top-ups from the sale of a jointly owned house with which the patient must deal from her bed while making the joint owner homeless.

Fortunately I bought the Which? Guide to Care in Retirement and have discovered funding via NHS Continuing Care and the alternative Nursing Care Fund. No-one told us! Good old Which? But what happens if the 84 year old does not meet the NHS Continuing Care criteria?