Care Home Fees: How to avoid being wrongly charged
None of us like the thought of our parents becoming frail and needing full-time care. For many families, though, it’s inevitable and it can put immense strain on everyone involved.
When Angela Sherman’s parents both developed Parkinson’s Disease in their early 50s, she could never have foreseen the nightmare journey they were all about to embark on. 20 years later her parents were in full-time nursing care with the added complications of dementia, stroke and cancer.
“My parents had some savings, and so I simply assumed they’d have to pay for their own care. No one told me otherwise. At that point the care fees were about £4,500 per month for both of them, and I knew that I’d have to think about selling the family home to pay for it. It was heartbreaking.”
Because Angela’s parents had savings, few people in any ‘authority’ seemed willing to help her with information or advice, and her parents’ local authority (local council) were keen to close all their files. When this happens it leaves families in a black hole, not knowing what to do or who to talk to – and that can often be the hardest thing.
It was only when Angela saw a TV programme about NHS funding for long-term care that she started researching what funding is actually available.
“Before you go into a care home,” says Angela, “the first thing you’re usually asked is how you’re going to pay for it. Social Services (your local council) will do a means test, and if you have savings or assets over about £23,000 (depending where you live in the UK), you’ll be told you have to pay all the costs of your care.
“This is the wrong way round. If you have significant health needs – and most people in a nursing home have health needs – it’s the NHS that should assess you for fully-funded NHS care, also known as NHS Continuing Healthcare. Social Services should not be making this decision. If you’re in a residential home, you may also require as assessment for NHS funding, depending on your health needs.”
The confusion arises with the difference between ‘social’ care and ‘health’ care. In the UK social care is means-tested, but health care is free at the point of use. Just because you’re elderly doesn’t mean the law has changed. We all pay tax to fund the NHS, and the NHS in return provides us with healthcare – no matter what our age.
“Most people are completely unaware of this,” states Angela, “and the various authorities involved don’t exactly publicise it. The devastating result is that tens of thousands of elderly people every year in the UK lose their homes and everything they’ve worked for, to pay for care they’ve already paid for through taxation.
“Being forced to pay for health care in the UK does not comply with the law. As my parents’ power of attorney, I decided to challenge the NHS on this and I pursued two cases against it – one on behalf of Mum and one on behalf of Dad. My point was that the NHS was illegally stripping my parents of all their assets to pay for care which they had a right to receive as UK taxpayers. It took me three years and a huge amount of time, tears and stamina – but eventually I won both cases.
“By that time my parents had paid out £160,000 on care fees. The NHS was forced to repay over £100,000 and pay all future fees. It can be hard to win a case like this. I am one of very few people to have done it – not just once, but twice – and at the same time. A solicitor friend was a welcome sounding board for me, but essentially I fought the battle myself – and other people can too.
“The whole process left me exhausted, but I feel glad to have had the stamina and drive to do it. Both my parents died at the end of 2009 and, after I’d taken some time to recover, I decided that my experience could help other families. That’s why I set up Care To Be Different.”
Care To Be Different makes available to families all the knowledge and insider insights Angela gained during her dealings with the NHS, and her guidance and advice now helps people step-by-step through the whole process. The website is packed with information and there’s also a range of practical guides people can purchase for a small fee. You can also book a telephone advice appointment with Angela to help you move forward with your own specific situation.
“I’ve ‘been there and done it’, as it were – and now I can save people huge amounts of time and stress and give them a much better chance of securing NHS funding for care fees. I wish I’d had all this information when my own parents first went into care!”
For information and advice about care fees and long-term care visit www.caretobedifferent.co.uk or call Angela Sherman on 01908 582231.
Care to be Different is led by Angela Sherman and it grew from her experience having two parents in full-time care for several years, learning the ins and outs of the care system and understanding how it really works in practice. She also challenged the NHS to provide free Fully-Funded NHS Care (known as NHS Continuing Healthcare) for both parents – and won.
Watch her TV interview about NHS Continuing Healthcare on our YouTube channel.
Alternatively, read the interview transcript.
We have written a review of a book entitled The Care Homes Guide – South East England which you might find useful.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor