Guide to elderly care

First published on 21 of March 2018 • Updated 15 of October 2018

About elderly care

In later life, you may begin to struggle with everyday tasks. Whether this is due to health problems or just general frailty, you may decide you need regular help of some sort. This kind of help is usually known as ‘long-term care’ and can take many different forms.

Whether you’ve already decided you need care, or you’re merely considering it as an option, this guide will help you understand what’s available and what you can expect from it.

N.B. We say ‘you’ throughout these guides to refer to the person who needs the care, though we recognise that it may be a family member who makes the arrangements.

Signs you might need care

Making the decision to get support is a personal one. It depends on how you feel and how easy you find it to do the simple things, like getting up and dressed, cooking your meals and getting out and about.

Here are some signs that care could be very beneficial to you:

  • Confusion – If you get confused easily and forget things like taking medication and paying bills.
  • Physical difficulty – You might feel more worried about falling or notice that it’s difficult to walk around your home and keep it clean.
  • Medical treatment – If you are having ongoing medical treatment such as dialysis or IV therapy.

Care needs assessments

To decide how much help you need, or whether you need care at all, you can arrange a care needs assessment at home. This is provided by your Local Authority free of charge, and is usually the first important step in finding the right care for you.

A social worker or occupational therapist will come to visit you in your home and ask you a number of questions. You can have a relative or close friend with you if it makes you feel more comfortable.

To start your assessment, you can contact the adult social services department at your local council. The NHS website has an option to put in your postcode, which brings up the details for the relevant departments close to you. You can also speak to the council if you are looking for care for someone else.

Care in your own home

Most people prefer to receive care in the comfort of their own homes if possible. This is often known as homecare (or sometimes ‘domiciliary care’). A care worker will visit you at home to help with the things you find difficult, such as getting washed and dressed, doing your weekly food shopping and preparing meals. Lots of homecare services will also invite you to social events like lunchtime gatherings. Visits may be anything from a few hours a week to all-day care, or even live-in care (see below).

The main advantage of homecare is that you get to stay where you feel most comfortable, and more in control than you might feel in residential care.  There can also be a financial advantage to choosing homecare over residential care – see How much does care cost?

Live-in care

If you need more permanent care but don’t want to leave your home, you could get live-in care. A care worker will live with you and help you throughout the day and night with tasks such as:

  • Getting washed and dressed
  • Taking medications (or reminding you to take them)
  • Preparing meals
  • Eating and drinking
  • Using the toilet
  • Getting out and about
  • Housework
  • Administrative tasks (paying bills etc)
  • Providing company and general support

Live-in care workers usually work in rotation so they can have the breaks required by law. For instance, one care worker might live with you for a few weeks and then hand over to a second one, who will then hand back to the first, and so on. This way you’ll get to know and trust your care workers very well.

Residential care

Another solution if you need round-the-clock care is to move into a care home – often known as ‘residential care’.  You can live here on your own or with your partner. Many residential care facilities specialise in certain needs to provide the best possible care for those people. Some people opt for care at home initially, and move on to residential care later on.

Moving into residential care is a big decision, and usually an irreversible one. In a residential care home you may face certain restrictions on your lifestyle, such as not being able to keep pets, and you will have to keep all your belongings in one room. Residential care is also very expensive and in many cases may force you to sell your home (or use equity release) – see How much does care cost?

Finding a good care worker

You will spend a lot of time with your care worker, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. There are lots of agencies across the UK that can connect you with care workers for both home and live-in care.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is a regulator of health and social care in England. It regularly inspects care agencies and other providers to make sure they meet strict guidelines. When you are searching for a care worker, you should look for this mark of quality to ensure the care you receive is safe, compassionate and effective. And if you are at all concerned about the care you receive from an agency registered with CQC, you can raise the query with them. You can find CQC-registered care agencies here.

How much does care cost?

Residential care can cost anything between £25,000 and £50,000 per year, depending on the level of care you would like and the facilities at the home. Per week, you can expect to pay between £500 and £1,000. While this does include food, bills and the care itself, you may have to pay for extras such as trips out and personal appointments.

You will typically spend less on homecare because you don’t have to pay for accommodation and may not have to pay for 24/7 care. If you have a care worker visiting you a few times a day, you could spend around £10,000 a year for their help. For more permanent live-in care, the costs are upwards of £30,000 a year. However, you are more likely to receive Local Authority funding for homecare, as the means test may work differently.

Ways to pay for care

The first thing to do is to see if you qualify for help with paying for care. Even if you do, this may cover only part of the cost of care. So what are your other options?

You may be able to use savings and other investments such as your pension, or use the money in the property you own by either selling it, renting it out or using equity release. Another solution is to use a lump sum to buy an immediate needs annuity, which is an insurance product that makes guaranteed payments directly to the care provider. A financial adviser can talk you through all the options to find the one that suits you best.

Let us match you to your perfect care provider