My independent care consultancy Relative Matters, regularly receives calls from potential clients frustrated by the current care system for older people. The extent of the problem was highlighted by recent media attention to the confusion surrounding social care funding and advice, following an investigation undertaken by the consumer watchdog, Which. The organisation asked 30 people across the UK to keep a diary as they tried to organise social care support for their partners, parents or themselves, between November 2013 and January this year.
They identified a number of key themes:
- People face a maze of confusing advice and information
- People are sent from pillar to post to find the right support and information
- Those with the most money (self-funders) all too often struggling to get basic advice
- Families in distress as they try to make care arrangements
- Relatives having to complain to get things done
The diaries revealed some people were forced to breaking point when trying to arrange social care for themselves or a loved one. It was found that the situation was made worse by the lack of relevant information, confusing jargon and some services leaving people to work it out for themselves, resulting in unnecessary distress for families.
People don’t realise how complex the care system is until they are faced with trying to work their way around it, often at a time of crisis when the older person or their carer become ill or have an accident. People who are not eligible for state funding find it especially difficult to even obtain simple information and advice in some areas, and practical support from a social care professional is minimal or non-existent in most.
Discuss future care early
Most of us hope to maintain our independence in our old age and not need help from anyone else. Sadly this is not always possible and it will be so much easier if you plan for a future that includes care with your elderly parents. Most people avoid the topic until a crisis occurs and then hurried decisions have to be made. So have a conversation as soon as possible with your parents before they need help. Ask them to imagine they need care and support some time in the future. What would be important to them? Would they prefer to be cared for at home, with live in care or in a care home? If their needs are such that they have to move into a care home what would be important to them about the care environment and the way they are cared for?
Make a list of their needs
For my own parents, I put together a list of the information likely to be needed for a professional assessment. This reduced the likelihood of us forgetting important information when speaking to a professional. The list included mental and physical health conditions, communication and mobility issues, daily living challenges, medication, what had changed to make them need care and support, what challenges they faced on their worst day, how they liked to spend their time, the things that were important for giving them a better quality of life, their support network and what concerns or worries they had.
Obtain a professional assessment
Contact your parent’s local authority and ask for the Social Services Department for adults to request an assessment of your parent’s needs. They have to assess anyone who appears to be in need of care whether they are at home or in hospital and regardless of their finances. Make sure the assessment looks at their quality of life and not just personal care needs and ask for a copy.
The Local Authority should only assess your parents’ financial situation once they have undertaken a needs assessment and agreed the services and support to meet them.
Try and be with your parent when the assessment is undertaken and make sure they have their bank details, savings and investment information, pension and any other income to hand.
Once it has been decided what care and support your parent needs and what might be available from the Local Authority you can begin to look at options. This is a very important stage and it is important to consider the whole range of options before a decision is made. For example, if your parent is assessed to need 24 hour support, live in care maybe an option rather than them moving into a care home, special equipment may be helpful to maintain independence and keep support costs down. If your parent is eligible for social care funding, a social worker will help them explore these options but if they have to pay for their own care and support they will have to rely on you to help them.
For more information my recently revised and updated book Relative Matters – The essential guide to finding your way around the care system for older people is available on Amazon. I will also answer any questions you post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn