Discussions about future care needs are often avoided. We all hope that we will remain healthy and able to manage our daily activities without external support. However, the reality is that many of us will either need support ourselves, or we will be involved in supporting someone we care about.
Unpaid or informal carers
Often, initial care and support is provided informally by a person’s partner, family, a friend or neighbour. It’s estimated that around 7 million people are currently providing unpaid care to someone living at home.
Consider who would offer support if you or someone you care about needed help. If you don’t have a support network, do you know what local services are available? Do any changes need to be made to ensure that support is easily on hand?
Living independently at home
Some people are fearful of the thought of losing their independence if they start to rely on others for support. However, introducing the right support at the right time can help an individual to maintain their independence for longer. Support that you could consider might include: -
- Help with housework and preparing meals
- Help with shopping or attending appointments
- Help with personal care
- Companionship either at home or at a local group or day centre
- Wellbeing appointments, for example chiropody, massage or physio
- Making adaptations to your home
Technology can also play a big part in helping to keep you independent at home. Most of us are familiar with fall alarms which alert someone if an individual has fallen, but there are a wide range of options that can help to raise the alarm if something has happened to affect a person’s wellbeing.
Full time care
There may come a time when a person requires round the clock care and support. Consider whether you would prefer to have care at home or in a care home.
24-hour live-in care may be a suitable option depending on the facilities at home and your financial position. If this is an option you would want to explore, contact some live-in care providers and find out what might be required. For example, live in carers will usually require their own bedroom and access to bathroom facilities. If staying in your own home is important, you may need to adapt your current home or consider moving to another property.
If a move into a care home is needed, what type of care home would you choose? What factors would be most important to you? It’s important to give this some thought and to record or communicate your views to others.
Unfortunately, visiting care homes to see the facilities and to get a feel for the environment that is created by residents and staff has not been possible since the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite this it’s still important to do what research you can and speak to others who have experience of care homes. Think of the process like moving home and carry out the same level of due diligence. What will life be like living in the care home? What food and activities are on offer? What steps are being taken to manage the coronavirus pandemic, how often can visits from those outside the care home be scheduled? Are these restricted to one visitor per resident?
Moving home is a big decision, and one of the most stressful processes to go through. Having to make a quick and uneducated decision at a time of crisis is not something that you or your loved ones will find easy and a bit of forward thinking and planning can go a long way.
Paying for Care and help managing finances
Unpaid care aside, most care and support will have a financial cost. If the individual who requires support loses the ability to manage their own finances, who will be able to access their income and capital to pay for their care?
This is an important question. A long delay to get access to a person’s funds can make a challenging situation even more difficult. Many care providers will be unable or unwilling to provide care without receiving any remuneration for any length of time and so your choice of care provider could be severely restricted.
You can legally appoint people that you trust to manage your finances by creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Finances. Bear in mind that the process of creating a Lasting Power of Attorney will take a minimum of 3 months, so it’s important to put one in place long before it is likely to be needed.
Sometimes crisis hits, and nothing is in place. If it’s not possible to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, someone will need to ask the Court of Protection to appoint someone to deal with the finances. This process will take a minimum of 6-9 months and there are ongoing costs, supervisions and reporting duties which would not be necessary if a Lasting Power of Attorney was put in place.
The rules around paying for care are complex and vary depending on the specific circumstances. Most people will be required to contribute towards the cost of their care and the cost over time can be significant. There are steps that can be taken in some circumstances to help preserve part of an estate but it’s important to get appropriate advice.
Making health and care decisions
Who decides what care or medical treatment a person receives if they themselves are unable to communicate their wishes? Many people assume that an individual’s spouse or children will automatically have this right but, if there is no legal authority in place, that may not be the case. The decision maker may in fact be: -
- In the case of medical treatment, the doctor who is treating the patient
- In a care setting, the person providing the care
- In the case of deciding where a person lives, a social worker
The individual who makes the decision should, if time permits, consider the views of those close to the incapacitated individual, but this is only one aspect of making a best interest decision.
Before incapacity occurs, a person can create the following documents to set out their wishes: -
- A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney which allows a person to officially appoint people that they trust to make medical, care and welfare decisions on their behalf if they are unable to understand or communicate their wishes themselves.
- An Advance Decision (also known as an Advance Directive or Living Will) which allows someone to record what medical treatment they do not wish to receive in the future. This is a legally binding document which must be followed by medical practitioners if they are aware of its existence and are satisfied it is a valid document.
- A care plan is a statement setting out a person’s wishes. Whilst it is not legally binding, it can help those providing care to understand a person’s wishes and act in their best interests. The care plan could include details of what activities a person enjoys, which foods they like or dislike or what they envisage their end of life care to look like.
Care is likely to be something that will become relevant to all of us at some stage in our lives – whether the care is needed by you personally, or you are involved in arranging care for someone else. If you agree that it’s time to start thinking about care planning, why not contact us today on 0800 999 4437, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free initial discussion with one of our experts to help you to identify the key steps for you to take for your circumstances.