There may be times in your life when you think about the consequences of becoming seriously ill or disabled.
This may be at a time of ill health or as a result of a life-changing event. It may simply be because you are the sort of person who likes to plan ahead.
You may want to take the opportunity to think about what living with a serious illness might mean to you, your partner or your relatives, particularly if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. You may wish to record what your preferences and wishes for future care and treatment might be.
The costs of long-term care
Care has never been free and everyone should think about the care they might need in the future. The long-term costs of care can be significant, and while none of us like to think that we will become old, ill or disabled, it does happen. Likewise, if you’re the parent of a disabled child, planning their future care and how it will be funded is vital.
Just like your pension, it is never too early to start thinking and planning your care and support needs and their costs.
Even if you’re generally fit and healthy and of working age, don’t ignore your future care. If you’re making long-term financial arrangements, you may want to take into account the potential costs of your future care needs.
The Care Act 2014 creates new provisions that will come into force from April 2020. It will introduce a "cap on care costs" that, for the first time ever, will offer you protection from the risk of losing everything you have to meet your care costs.
It does this by setting a maximum amount that you will have to pay towards your eligible care needs. This amount will be set nationally, but if you are eligible for local authority support to meet your costs, you will pay much less. Once you reach the cap, your local authority will take over meeting the cost. However, this only applies directly to care services you are eligible for, and you will still have to pay other costs such as a contribution towards your accommodation.
If you turn 18 with an eligible care and support need, your cap will be set at zero.
Alongside this, the point at which you may be eligible for financial help from your local authority with your care costs is being extended. Currently, if you have more than £23,250 in assets, such as your home or savings, you will need to meet the full cost of your care. From April 2020 this will increase so that more people benefit from financial help.
Read more on the changes announced in the Care Act 2014, which came into effect in April 2015.
How your local authority can help with planning your care
The Care Act 2014 makes clear that local authorities must provide or arrange services that help to prevent people developing care and support needs, or delay people deteriorating to the point where they would need ongoing care and support.
Even if you don’t want or need financial assistance with your care, your local authority can still help you plan your care, so it is worth contacting the adult social services of your local council to find out the options available to you and your family.
Local authorities must work with people in their areas to provide or arrange services that help to keep people well and independent. This should include identifying the local support and resources already available, and helping people to access them. They should make clear:
- what types of care and support are available – such as specialised dementia care, befriending services, reablement (short-term care time, for example, to get someone safe, happy and able to live independently in their home after they have been discharged from hospital), personal assistance and residential care
- the range of care and support services available to local people – in other words, what local providers offer certain types of services
- what process local people need to use to get care and support that is available
- where local people can find independent financial advice about care and support and help them to access it
- how people can raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of someone who has care and support needs
If you think you need care now, or in the very near future, the best way to plan your care and find out about your care needs is to ask your local authority for an assessment.
The sooner you ask for an assessment, the sooner that plans for your care can be made. These plans should include what should be done in the event of an emergency.
Financial planning for future care needs
Local authorities have to help people get independent financial advice, to enable planning and preparation for future care costs. This encompasses a range of services from generic sources of information and advice, such as websites or helplines, to tailored advice relating to specific financial products, which can only be provided by a regulated financial advisor. Some of these services may charge a fee.
The Money Advice Service website has tips on planning ahead for a time when you can’t manage your own finances.
Making decisions about your future care needs and wishes
If you are a young person with disabilities and you have long-term care needs, you should make plans that will help you make arrangements for expected future changes in your life. For example, this could be help with transport so that you can get a job or stay in your current employment.
Find out about transitioning from child to adult care and support.
If you are nearing retirement age, it’s important that you take account of your likely care needs and plan accordingly. You may wish to consider setting up a Power of Attorney or an advanced decision (living will). These will help people to take account of your preferences if you lose the capacity to make decisions. You will also want to ensure that you have thought about how you might pay for the care you need.
Many of us will put off planning for care and support arrangements until the last possible moment. Having an urgent need for care and support after a crisis may mean that we and our families feel pressured into making decisions quickly.
Under such pressure, asking the right questions, thinking and planning for your future needs – including options for meeting the cost of care – are vital. It is important that you seek good advice on these subjects so that you can consider your best short-term and long-term options.
There are several factors to consider when planning social care. These include:
- the type of condition you have, and the best ways for you to stay healthy and independent
- the type of care you would prefer, and whether it would meet your needs
- where you would like to be cared for – in your own home, in a residential care setting such as a care home, or in the community while you are living at home
- how much your care is likely to cost and whether you may be entitled to free care or financial help
- who you want to care for you, and whether, if you want friends or family to be your carers, they are able and willing to do so
You will need to weigh up the pros and cons of each care option against these factors. For more information read, How do I choose social care?
One of the common decisions people are faced with is whether they should sell their home to pay for their care. If you are thinking about moving into a residential care home and are worried about meeting the costs, ask your council for information about a "deferred payment agreement". This is an arrangement whereby the person agrees, with their local authority, to pay some of their care fees at a later date. This means they should not be forced to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for their care. A person or their estate usually repays the local authority from the sale of their property at a later date. The Care Act introduces rules that mean councils have to offer deferred payments to people.
Independent advice on planning your care
If you are making plans for your future care – at whatever stage – it is worth getting advice. You may want to get specific care advice from a charity, general advice from Citizens Advice or specialist legal, financial or welfare rights advice.
Find out about planning future care on the Find Me Good Care website.
If you have difficulty communicating or exerting your rights, you may want to have an advocate to deal with these issues on your behalf. Your local authority social services department should have information about organisations in your area that help people who have social care needs. They may offer an advocacy service.
If you have a specific condition, you may want to get in touch with a national organisation that supports people with this condition. Your GP surgery should have information on the relevant groups and organisations.