Dentists’ Provident’s Sarah Bradbury explores the plight of carers looking after the elderly
We’re living longer, pension provisions are limited and the cost of care homes is increasing, as a result many of us find ourselves having to decide what to do about the care of our aging grandparents or parents who can no longer live independently. One in seven of the working UK population find themselves having to juggle their job with the responsibility of providing unpaid care for a relative .
Knowing what to do for the best, how much it will cost, what’s best for the rest of the family, and even where to start, can be stressful and, like so many public services, the elderly care sector is largely underfunded, which is perhaps why some people turn to the private sector.
In England, the Government has an ongoing review of social care policy, in particular how it is funded. In 2017 the Government indicated that it would publish a consultative Green Paper on the topic, in July 2019 we learned that a White Paper should be published instead. However, to date we have seen nothing conclusive .
A CQC report titled “The state of healthcare and adult social care in England 2018/2019’ states: “Most of the care that we see across England is good quality and, overall, the quality is improving slightly. But people do not always have good experiences of care and they have told us about the difficulties they face in trying to get care and support.
“Sometimes people don’t get the care they need until it’s too late and things have seriously worsened for them.”
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic there has been a lot of negative publicity about the number of cases reported in care homes, but they are now under the spotlight with access to many resources and services from the NHS, and most have implemented strict procedures to keep their residents and staff safe.
If you are considering a care home it might be worth taking virtual tours, watching online videos and meeting staff via videoconferencing before visiting in person, to make sure you are happy they are following PPE requirements and have measures in place for testing residents and staff.
Caring for a dependent in their later years can be rewarding and bring you closer together, however, it can also be a draining experience that puts pressure on the relationship, especially if you don’t have the time, patience or skills to do it properly.
Carers UK (the UK’s only national membership charity for carers) conducts ‘The State of Caring Survey’ which is the UK’s most comprehensive annual research into carers’ experiences. The 2019 survey found that over 50% of carers weren’t in a position to save for their own retirement because of their responsibilities, and over two-thirds used their own income or savings to pay for support services or equipment .
Carers UK offer constructive advice in the following areas:
• Financial support, such as allowances and benefits.
• Practical support; such as managing someone’s affairs.
• How to look after your own health.
• Your rights in your job.
• Plus, a whole host of toolkits and factsheets.
Alternatively, you might turn to the experts, and Age UK is a good place to start. They suggest you contact the adult social services department of your local council and ask for a care/needs assessment, to which you are entitled irrespective of your income and location.
They produce a care plan and means test assessment to determine how much you need to contribute to council provided care (where eligible). They will also consider home care and home adaptations before looking at specialist housing or care homes .
‘Which’ also provides guidance regarding the options for home care and care homes and in February 2020 reported on issues resulting from privately hiring someone to carry out care and support in your or their home, including the legal responsibilities of becoming an employer 
Another option you might consider is bringing in an independent care adviser to assess every option for you and propose packages of care, whether in your own home or a private care home.
“My mother had been living with us for three years, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage her care; juggling her needs with running my dental practice and spending time with my family. We felt that we couldn’t give my mother the support she needed. I didn’t know the best way forward, so approached an independent care adviser.
“An adviser came to see us in our home and discussed the various options, and the best solution seemed to be for my mother to move into a care home. I really didn’t want her to feel I was pushing her into this and it was a relief to see how readily she accepted the suggestion. However, she was still a little anxious, so having an independent expert on hand to answer lots of questions and to have a choice of care homes to visit reassured her a lot.
“We visited three recommended homes and my mother liked them all, which helped us make a joint decision, as did having the option to stay in one for a week or so to get a feel for the place. Having an independent care adviser really helped, right until my mother had safely moved into her preferred home.
“My mother has been living in the care home for over a year now and is extremely happy. We are able to spend quality time with her, knowing that she is safe and well looked after, while I have been able to manage and grow my practice and spend the time I want with my family.”
David Nugent, Managing Director of Grace Consulting (specialists independent care advisers, who provided this case study) said: “Our business was set up over 30 years ago by our founder when he experienced the same situation that hundreds of people face every day: being overwhelmed by issues regarding loved ones who have started to struggle with the consequences of frailty in older age.
“Organisations like ours help people decide the right sort of care for their unique circumstances and help find the best providers for that care, giving advice so that people have the reassurance of knowing they have done the best they can for their loved ones.”
Carers UK has been lobbying parliament and in December last year were very positive that carers may be better supported by receiving an entitlement to take leave from work, and so supporting the UK working population who care for dependents.
The emotional, practical and financial decisions arising from caring for an elderly dependent will always be hard. But knowing who to turn to with these difficult decisions can help ease the burden and ensure you have done the best for everyone.
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