Plan for your future care needs
We’re living longer than ever, which means that we have more time to get what we want out of life. According to recently released data from Public Health England, life expectancy at older ages in England is at its highest-ever level. The report shows that:
· Men can now expect to live for a further 19 years at age 65, 12 years at 75, 6 years at 85 and 3 years at 95
· Women can expect to live for a further 21 years at age 65, 13 years at 75, 7 years at 85, and 3 years at 95
This also means that we’ll spend more time in old age and the inevitable problems that it can bring. There is a lot we can do to help ourselves, such as living a healthy lifestyle, eating the right foods and getting exercise. However, we are all likely to need some additional help as we get older so it is worth having a care plan for the future, both financially but also knowing your options and thinking about what kind of care you might like.
We take a look at the different stages of care planning and requirements, and briefly look at your options. You can find more detail on all of these options throughout the website.
Stage 1: Planning for the future
No matter how young you are, it pays to start thinking about your future. From now until you retire is your opportunity to plan what sort of budget you will have, what assets you will build and what kind of care you would like. It can seem a long way off, but you are likely to come into contact with the care system through elderly parents, which can be very eye opening. This is often the first time that you find out what kinds of care options there are, and you will likely find that some appeal more to you than others. Seeing it from the side of a child helping their parent is very useful, as you will know what kind of information would be beneficial to you from your parents, so that you can prepare what to tell your own children one day.
Stage 2: Early old age
When you approach retirement age, there are a few things that you should think about doing to prepare for future care requirements. You can assign a Power of Attorney to make decisions on your behalf in the future, and you can set up an ‘Advance decision (living will)’ setting out any treatments you may wish to refuse under certain circumstances. These options need to be done formally and legally, but give you assurances that your wishes will be met. At this stage, it is also worth sitting down with family to have an informal chat about the future and letting your children or other dependants know how you would like your care needs to be met. Coming up with a rough care plan is helpful – what kind of care you would like at what stage. You should also be thinking about your finances, as care can be expensive and you are not guaranteed to get local authority funding, especially in the early stages.
Stage 3: Basic care needs
There may come a time when you need a little help in certain areas of your life, but where you still want to remain as independent as possible. Often we enter into the care system because of an illness, condition, fall or other triggering factor. It is important to speak to your Local Authority, as they have people who can help. While you may or may not be eligible for funding, they still have a responsibility to help you understand the care available to you, help you plan financially, put you in contact with services that could help and ensure that your needs are being met. At this stage, you may not need a lot of help and working with your family, your GP or your Local Authority you can come up with a care plan that ensures you get the care that you do need, but that you are able to continue in your everyday life as much as possible. For example, you might find that you are no longer able to cook easily, in which case a home-delivery food service could be the answer. Or maybe the housework is piling up, and a cleaner would be worth the outlay.
Stage 4: Increasing care needs
If you have a condition or illness that is likely to get worse with age, then you should consider in advance how your increasing care needs will be met. If you want to remain in your own home, then a good option is to consider hiring or contracting with a paid carer. You can choose to be an employer, which gives you full control over who comes to your home to deliver your care needs, though you would have to shoulder the responsibilities that comes with employment. You can also find a self-employed paid carer or go through an agency. A carer could come to your home for a couple of hours as needed, and then increase as time goes on. You should also consider a ‘menu’ of services, with different help for different areas to met your needs best – for example, a paid carer could deal with personal care, a local shopping service could help you get out to the shops, a community group could provide company and support, etc.
Stage 5: Advanced care needs
Not everyone gets to this stage; many people continue to live independently in their own homes with minimal care intervention for their entire lifetime. However, some conditions are degenerative and there may come a point where you need a lot more care and support. At this point, it is up to you and the people around you as to whether you can safely remain at home and whether you need residential care. Other options include selling your home and moving into assisted living, where you have your own space but with the benefit of knowing that there is help available at all times. In more serious cases, the only option might be residential care so that you have 24-hour assistance. This is why it pays to think about potential future care needs from an early age – you may not wish to move into residential care unless you really have to, or you may want to move into a retirement home or assisted living complex early so that you are settled before your condition worsens.