The realities of elder care today
With an increasing number of people past retirement age, cuts to local council funding and a country recovering from a financial crisis, the number of elderly people receiving care has dropped and the cost of funding needs is continuing to rise.
According to an editorial in The Telegraph, there are a million more elderly people outside the care system now than before the financial crash. This is backed up by figures from Age UK, released at the beginning of this year, which showed that, “The percentage of the population receiving social care has fallen by a third in the last four years”. If the number of over-65s is rising but the number of people receiving social care is falling, then it is inevitable that a large number of people will fall through the cracks or have to look into ways to self-fund care.
Councils are having to prioritise only those with the highest needs, as services are depleted. The Age UK figures say that less than a tenth of elderly people are receiving care.
A financial study by finance firm NFU Mutual, found that more than a million homes have been sold over the last five years to fund care costs, cutting into any legacy left to people by their parents. A legacy that many people may have been relying on to fund their own care needs in later life – leading to calls for people to plan early for their retirement and to make their own financial plans. People in England with assets worth over £23,500 get no financial help if they need to move into a care home, where it can cost more than £28,000 a year to live. Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK says: “Selling homes to pay for care costs is just one of the many problems of our crumbling care system and these figures underline just how deep the problem is.”
Care homes are not the sole solution in later life, however, and those that are self-funding their care needs or receive personal budgets from their local authority have a wealth of care and support options to consider. Hiring a paid carer, for example, to provide daily care in the home is one option and this can be less costly than residential care, plus it helps a person to remain as independent as possible, in their own home.
The key thing to take away from the state of today's elder care is to explore all options for loved ones to get the best care for your budget, know what help you or they are entitled to, and think early for retirement to ensure that a financial plan is in place without relying on an inheritance that may never come or be whittled down due to increasing care costs.