Paying for long-term care

Anyone may need long-term care at any age, but it’s most often necessary in later life. If you or a family member require this kind of support – or just want to plan ahead for the eventuality – then you will want to know what kind of care is most appropriate, and also how to pay for it.

What is long-term care?

‘Care’ is a very broad term. It can mean support in everyday tasks which an able-bodied person could reasonably be expected to do for themselves (i.e. non-medical care), or medical services to treat ongoing conditions, including the general effects of old age. Care can mean anything from a home help visiting a few times per week, to receiving 24-hour care in a residential home.

What kind of care do I need?

Whether you are looking for care for a family member or for yourself, the first step is finding out exactly what services are available. Contact your local adult social services department, and your local authority will be able to carry out a full assessment of your needs.

This assessment will also determine what support (if any) will be available via your local authority, and how much you may have to fund for yourself. Even if you do qualify for some support, you may decide to pay for a higher level of care.

Ways to pay for long-term care

Care is usually expensive, and in the case of full-time residential care it is often very expensive. If you struggle to see how you could meet this challenge, your first port of call should be an independent financial adviser who specialises in long-term care. Remember too that funding arrangements may take time to put in place, so the sooner contact a specialist, the better.

Your options for funding long-term care may come from one or more of the following.

Pension income, savings and other assets

Your private income (e.g. from pensions, the State Pension and any savings or investments you may have) can cover at least some of your care, but if your care needs are significant you will probably need other solutions too.

Immediate care plan

Like an annuity, this product is set up in exchange for a lump sum. It’s designed to pay the shortfall between your income and your care costs for the rest of your life, and pays directly to the care provider Some may increase their payments automatically to keep pace with care costs.

Your home

You could sell your home to pay for some of your care costs, or release some value from it. Alternatively you could rent out all or part of it to boost your overall income.

Your financial adviser can go over all the options with you to find the best solutions. Being long-term care specialists, they should also be able to offer practical recommendations on the types of care available, and even on individual care providers. Importantly, they can also show you that long-term care can be affordable, and need not impose a burden on your family.

What if I can’t manage my own finances?

Conditions like dementia, or simply the effects of old age, can make it hard or impossible for a person to manage their own finances. This can happen to anyone, so it is highly advisable to set up Lasting Power of Attorney while you are fully competent. In doing this, you choose a person or persons (usually family members) who can do this on your behalf during your life. Talk to a solicitor about setting this up – it’s never too soon to arrange it, and it can be just as vital as making a will.

You can find out more about late-stage retirement in our guide to later-life planning.

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