Almost everyone would like to remain independent into their old age, and studies have shown that it is better for a person's mental health if they can remain in familiar surroundings and retain as many responsibilities as they can still manage. Sadly, this can sometimes mean that the elderly and the most well-meaning of their children, can postpone care decisions until matters become urgent. At that point, the reality of care home costs can hit hard and, together with waiting lists, the choice for Mum or Dad's last place to call 'home' can become depressingly limited.
Private care home costs vary from c.£1,000 per week to £2,500 per week and more; an average of these figures tots up to more than £90,000 a year, equivalent to a very good salary indeed – an income, and certainly a pension that would be well beyond most people's reach. Today's generation of septua- and octogenarians, if owners of even a modest property, will have benefited greatly from the increase in property values over the past 60 years. Setting aside the super-wealthy, it is only because ordinary homeowners have experienced these soaring house values that the present level of care home charges are viable. Selling the family home becomes the only option.
The irony is this; if the equity tied up in our homes is spent on care home costs it will not be passed on to the next generation – a generation that is already struggling with the cost and availability of housing as a direct result of the same soaring values. They in turn will not have the same equity to invest in their old-age care. The developers of housing for the elderly know this – most care homes are now constructed with another 'end-life' in mind, once the present generation has passed. Whatever your views on the 'free market', care home construction is perhaps a perfect example of the market economy in action. The media often reports a lack of affordable homes due to a lack of home-building. There is in fact plenty of home-building going on, but it is targeted at the elderly who can pay for it, not the young who cannot. Eventually these residences may be converted to flats and we will have a surplus of first-time homes, but it will probably come too late to benefit the young adults of today.
Is there another option? We would suggest taking another look at that valuable asset – the home. Angell Thompson have been involved with a variety of initiatives;
- Accessibility – homes can be made more accessible by the widening of doors, and the installation of ramps.
- Facilitated living; sanitary ware and kitchen fittings can be adapted, and living spaces can be opened-up. We were privileged to assist with a refurbishment project undertaken by the BBC programme DIY SOS hosted by Nick Knowles, which swept away a set of internal walls to facilitate occupation by a person of limited mobility.
- Perhaps the ultimate stay-at-home option; the adaption of existing accommodation, or a modest extension for a live-in carer. Local authorities tend to adopt a more amenable Planning stance, where home alterations enable the elderly to remain in their home, or that of a relative.
- Adaption of capital assets needn't be restricted to the private homeowner; some Housing Association stock is being adapted to make bathroom use easier for the elderly and/or disabled.Of course, these things are not without cost. However, they need not break the bank either; some government funding is available for adapting the accessibility of housing. There are also a variety of private equity-release schemes. Whilst this option would erode the capital reserves of the homeowner, it would be unlikely to exhaust them. Live-in care costs vary but despite the bespoke care, they tend to be cheaper than a care-home, particularly for a couple. There is also care-funding assistance available, subject to qualification – including contributions to live-at-home care costs - see the websites below.Ultimately, actions like these could have a 'win-win' outcome; some homeowner equity remains in the family, and most importantly Mum and/or Dad can stay together, and stay in the home they know and love.