Organising your own care and support for the first time, or providing support to an elderly or disabled person to access the right types of health and social care services, can feel really overwhelming. We often meet families in crisis who tell us that they don’t know where to go for help, or what support is even out there. Furthermore, advances in medicine mean that people are living for longer. With the NHS now reporting 1 in 14 people over 65 with dementia, and 1 in 6 people over 80 with dementia, it’s likely most of us will encounter someone in our network or will ourselves require help due to memory difficulties at some point.
Have Open and Honest Conversations;
Tell your loved ones your views now. What are your wishes? How would you like to be supported if you needed care in the future? What is most important? If you are supporting someone you care about to think about care planning don’t be afraid to sensitively talk about the difficult subjects like where would their preferred place of death be if they became seriously ill, or how they feel about life-sustaining treatments.
Get Your Affairs in Order;
We cannot emphasise enough how many benefits there are to setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney. Ensuring that someone you trust is on hand to advocate for what you would have wanted if you become unable to make decisions about your health or finances yourself. If there is no one appropriate to be an Attorney in your network, or there are complex family dynamics to navigate, you can always appoint a Professional Attorney such as a solicitor. It is a simpler and more cost-effective option to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney now, than a crisis occurring and you or your loved one having lost mental capacity, resulting in having to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship order. Likewise, make sure you have an up to date Will. If marriages, divorces, estrangements or a change in financial circumstances apply to you, updating your Will now could prevent your wishes being contested after your death, and save your loved ones a lot of additional stress on your passing.
Work Out Where You are Financially;
There are many excellent voluntary services at hand to help ensure you are getting all the support you are entitled to such as; Age UK or Citizens Advice. Be mindful that if you are under 65 and require significant support you might be entitled to Personal Independence Payments, or Attendance Allowance for over 65’s. It’s a good idea to establish now if you would be ‘Self-Funding’ social care services. If you have savings or investments over £23,250 or own a property, it’s possible you could be. However, many caveats exist if you have significant assets. It is also an excellent idea to approach a Financial Advisor to make plans about future care funding options, and how to get the best out of your estate and tax planning. For over 65’s we recommend using Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) due to the strict Code of Practice these advisors practice under, to ensure you are in safe hands.
Consider All the Care Options;
It’s not simply a choice of care at home versus a nursing home. There are so many options in between such as; reablement, respite, day care, Housing with Care, live in care, day opportunities, and the support of specialist equipment to stay at home such as Occupational Therapy equipment or Assistive Technology. Collate all the information, so that you can make an informed choice about the best way forward for your individual needs and wishes. Everyone is entitled to a Care Act Assessment of care needs if they have the appearance of need by the Local Authority. Contact your Local Authority directly for more information. For those who are Self-Funding and not wishing to wait for a Local Authority Care Act Assessment, or for care options to be restricted by Local Authority criteria, it is also possible to access an Independent Care Needs Assessment such as those offered by Thornton & Lee.
Planning for Emergencies;
Talk with your loved ones now about what you would like to happen in an emergency or if your regular carer, such as a spouse who supports you, is having an unplanned hospital stay. Put a contingency plan together such as another family member or someone in your network stepping in. For how long? and what tasks would you need them to help with? If it is important for you to stay at home, and you have significant needs, perhaps a temporary measure of day sits, and/or night sits could be part of your contingency plan. It might be an idea for you or someone you trust, to scope out local residential homes that offer respite in advance. Remember to not only pop into the residential home or request a video tour (if available) to establish how you feel about the surroundings and the staff members, but also to review the homes Care Quality Commission (CQC) report online too.
Support for Carers;
No one can pour from an empty cup. It is essential that carers receive regular breaks and periods of recuperation from their caring role, otherwise it will quickly become unsustainable. All carers are entitled to a Carers Assessment under the Care Act (2014), which can be accessed by contacting your Local Authority. Carers Assessments look at ways to emotionally and practically support Carers needs. Consider talking to your GP too if you are feeling overwhelmed in your caring role. There are many great resources to support Carers too such as Age UK who offer a telephone line over 365 days a year on 0800 678 1602. However, sometimes simply getting the right amount of support in place for the cared for person such as a regular sitting service at home, a few days a week at a day centre, or regular residential respite can make the world of difference in staying rested, engaged with own hobbies, and remaining well as a carer.
If you are struggling with navigating the care maze, call Thornton & Lee for a free, friendly, no obligation discussion.