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Paying for social care (older people)

How paying for care affects families

This page covers:
• Worries about inheritance
• Discussions with family about money and care
• Getting a balance between providing care and paying for care

Many older people pay for their own care, but other family members are affected as well. People may find it worrying to see how quickly savings can be spent and the impact that paying for care can have on inheritance is a concern for some. Families don’t always agree on what care to pay for but where there is agreement this can be a big help. Sometimes it’s not the paying for care that is the biggest concern, but the time and energy needed to help look after a family member, and how to balance that with work and family life. 

Many of the people we spoke to felt it was unfair that their hard-earned savings, or those of their parents, had to be spent on care. A big worry was that there would be nothing to leave as an inheritance. This upset some sons and daughters who were expecting to receive that inheritance but more often than not they were upset on behalf of their parents as they knew their parents wanted to pass something on to the next generation. People told us that they did not always tell their parents exactly how much was being spent on care or that all their savings were gone. Even though spending the money on care was a worry, many people told us that they were glad to be able to do the best they could for their parents.

 

Sinclair was upset that he would not be able to leave more inheritance to his children.

Sinclair was upset that he would not be able to leave more inheritance to his children.

Age at interview: 92
Sex: Male
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So you have a pension, good pension incomes and you have some savings and obviously the value of your house?

Yeah.

So all those things together you know that you’re…

That’s right, yeah.

… in that position. Do you know how your children, your family, feel about this?

Yes, yes, yes.

Would you like to tell me?

[Sighs].

We can come back to that if you’d rather.

Yeah. They said, “Spend it all dad.”

It’s for you and your wife…

That’s it, yeah.

…to have what you need?

Yeah, in an instant (sounding a little upset) yeah.

So that’s reassuring to you that the three of them all feel, you know, they’re all together on that, which is…

Completely.

…reassuring to you isn’t it?

Completely yes, yes. But the most, the only disappointed one really is me because I had plans to leave them much better off than I started and it’s not going to happen.

 

Sally said her mum would be furious if she’d known all her money had been spent on care.

Sally said her mum would be furious if she’d known all her money had been spent on care.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
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My mum will be turning in her grave now; she would be absolutely furious, she would be distraught beyond belief because they, she worked so hard to save. She worked, they started life, they got married in 1942, they were married for over seventy years, and they started life in a caravan with absolutely nothing and they worked so hard and I know that they would both be absolutely distraught beyond belief; I can’t put a strong, I can’t emphasise strongly enough how dreadful their reaction would be if they’d known, if they knew, and they never, they don’t, they never did know and it’s something I’ve just got to live with.

 

Although Lynne feels the system is unfair, she is happy her parents can afford the best care they can get.

Although Lynne feels the system is unfair, she is happy her parents can afford the best care they can get.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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How; that’s just not right, not right. So on one hand I don’t think it’s right my parents have to pay for their care because my dad is still paying tax, and they’ve paid tax and national insurance all their lives, they’ve never ever been on any benefit, ever, they’ve worked hard to get what they’ve got but they’re still having to pay for their care. But on the other hand we’re very fortunate that we can pay for care, because I know they’re getting the best care that they can get. So it’s a real swings, you know, it’s a dilemma that you, that I have, you know, is that I want Matt Hancock to do something about it, but then, on the other hand, my mum and dad are fairly privileged.

People said that it wasn’t always easy to agree with sisters and brothers in making decisions about their parents’ care. Some disagreements were about inheritance and the cost of care, or because one sibling lived closer and gave more hands-on care to their parents than the others. This could mean that those living further away did not appreciate how much help their parents needed and could be reluctant to agree to pay for more care or a move to a care home. People also told us that talking about care and finances within step-families could add a further layer of complications.

 

Rosemary had difficult conversations with her stepsons over the cost of their father’s care home.

Rosemary had difficult conversations with her stepsons over the cost of their father’s care home.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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It did become difficult when, as I’ve referred earlier, his sons were very determined that perhaps he should go somewhere considerably more expensive and I, at that point, had to say, “Unless you’re prepared to contribute to those costs actually I’m afraid he can’t go there.” Which was difficult but, you know and they weren’t prepared to contribute financially so that sort of ended the debate really, mm.

Not all family conversations were difficult. Some pulled together and came to joint agreements about paying for a parent’s care. A few people told us that they felt lucky to be an only child so they didn’t have any additional stress of trying to agree with sisters and brothers. But they also recognised that the downside of being an only child was that they had to shoulder all the responsibility for making decisions.

 

Paula talks about the pros and cons of making decisions as an only child.

Paula talks about the pros and cons of making decisions as an only child.

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Female
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So I do think finding the right person, the right people and just be, you know, it’s going to cost a lot of money, it’s going to cost a lot of money, and I suppose you don’t know how long you’re going to need it for. So I don’t, it’s complicated. It’s, ah the other thing that’s worked to my advantage probably is that I’m, it’s a double-edged sword. I’m an only child which means that it’s all been on me to sort out, which has been hard, but I don’t have any sibling friction; and I’ve seen that in a lot of families where one person wants to keep looking after the person in their own home and I know a daughter who does that and another sibling, her sister, would have wanted to put them up in a care home, sell the house and put, you know; so different people having different ideas about what’s right.

 

Mark felt lucky that he and his siblings agreed about paying for their dad’s care.

Mark felt lucky that he and his siblings agreed about paying for their dad’s care.

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
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And so did you all discuss the plans and did you all feel the same about the way to go forward with this annuity or, because you all have Power of Attorney, I think.

We do, yes. That’s a very good question, because of course, I mean, you know, I know lots of instances where families don’t agree and don’t get on you know, around things like this particularly where money is concerned, because basically what we had to agree on was that effectively my dad was going to leave us no money and that all of his money was going to be used up in his care and luckily we, I’m close to my brother and sister and we all completely agreed and we all went to the solicitors and we all discussed that, you know, our main objective here was solely dad’s care. So we were lucky that we all agreed, because if one of us had completely different ideas I don’t know what, I don’t know what we would have done; presumably the whole process would have been a lot less smooth. But yes, in that we totally agree.

As well as the money side of care, people told us that providing practical care for their parents had a big impact on their own lives. Organising paid care for their parents was also very time-consuming. Some people gave up work or reduced their hours to help care for parents. Others moved house to be closer to a parent or moved a parent in with them. People feel a sense of duty but it can be hard to get the balance right between caring for a parent and paying for care.

 

Sarah had to choose between full-time work and caring for her parents.

Sarah had to choose between full-time work and caring for her parents.

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I had a promotion at work so you know, a lot of responsibility at work as well and with the strain of, of, you know, obviously of things becoming a lot more apparent that things weren’t right with mum and dad it was just too much to cope with and I was you know, sort of struggling, I was really stressed, stress levels were so high. So I actually went and spoke to the head at that time just to say, you know, “I just, you know, I’m finding it all really difficult to sort of be there for mum and dad and, and sort of maintain my role at work.” And she did at first allow me just to have you know, I had a half day off which helped initially but then it was apparent very quickly it just wasn’t enough to sort of, you know, oversee what was going on with mum and dad and so I just made the decision which, yeah, it was, it was difficult, and obviously if things had been different I, you know, I wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have gone part-time at that point, because after having had the children and being part-time for while they were all young you know, this was, you know, I was sort of, suddenly sort of becoming a lot more career orientated and wanting to, you know, develop that and but it just wasn’t, you know, just, it just wasn’t feasible and to be there for mum and dad.

The high cost of care made people think twice about paying for care or they chose to postpone getting paid care. Frances described feeling ‘very resentful’ about the price of night time care for her father and so her sister helped out a couple of nights a week.

 

Frances realised how much caring for her dad was affecting her family life when he had respite care.

Frances realised how much caring for her dad was affecting her family life when he had respite care.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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I’d approached the care agency for night care but it’s double the cost; so at the time we were paying £18.50 an hour in the day, so that rose to something like £34 in the evening, an hour, and that was just, we can’t afford that, and the council said to me, no, they weren’t going to fund any overnight care whatsoever, so that would all be our funding. Now whether they would have started funding the daytime care to help us pay for the; I don’t know, because we never reached that point, because by the time he’d been, I think it was only about three or four days when I’d had some sleep and life was what you would call normal but we realised hadn’t been normal. So we hadn’t realised until then; I think it was when I watched half an hour programme without being disturbed, I ended up hysterically crying, realising that we hadn’t ever done that for a good year, if not eighteen months, we hadn’t ever chatted to each other we hadn’t done anything as a family, because dad was always there and we always; you know, it sounds worse than it was, he didn’t make our lives hell but you suddenly realise that you couldn’t be yourselves because there was this other person that needed a bit of attention and it was at that point then that I just sort of said, “I can’t go back to doing this anymore.” And then, you know, so we then approached the nursing home.

 

Nadra talks about balancing paid care and the unpaid care her brother provides for her dad.

Nadra talks about balancing paid care and the unpaid care her brother provides for her dad.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
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So my brother walks to dad’s now; my brother’s retired but he walks to my dad’s on a daily basis around this sort of time to make sure he has lunch. So he’s had his breakfast in the morning, which is we pay for the care and then my brother comes in just to make sure he has enough for his lunch, and then we leave him in the evening for a and we will do as long as we’re able to. But, you know, I have started to talk to my dad, actually even yesterday, I was saying, you know, “The point where we’re not comfortable that you’re eating properly in the evenings we will have to get an evening call for you.” And he was accepting of it yesterday, he said, “Yes, but I don’t need it at the moment.” He says he eats and I think that’s you know, that’s important; there are just the two of us so my brother’s on his own as well, so I think in a way it’s OK. But my brother’s quite young, he’s not, although he’s retired if, he only reached retirement age yesterday actually but he took early retirement. But he does say that he needs, he, I think he wants to continue to work, maybe in a consultancy role of some sort, and I think that’s when we’re going to need to see how we manage dad, because at the moment there’s a comfort for me is that my brother’s there but it’s a huge responsibility for my brother because his life is centred around dad; and I think that’s what happens, he’s that sort of unpaid carer.

Once a decision had been made to pay for care, it could take the stress off relationships and help people get some of their old lives back.

 

Paying for care took the pressure off Marie’s dad.

Paying for care took the pressure off Marie’s dad.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
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So is that, do you think having that has also perhaps helped your mum and dad sort of restore their relationship a little bit by having these people in instead?

Yeah, yeah, I think so, because my mum was getting quite angry with my dad for interfering and accusing her of not washing or not washing her hair when she was saying that she had washed it but it was clear to see that she hadn’t and she’d probably just thought she had. So definitely it puts that pressure off my dad so he can just carry on getting ready himself in the morning while my mum’s being sorted out and then carry on the rest of their day together without really any interruptions from anyone, yeah.

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