Choosing a care home this winter?

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How would you choose a care home for your dad?

Even for me as a professor with the job of improving the public understanding of dementia this is a big challenge.  My dad does not need a care home and says he never wants to leave where he is, but lots of people come to me all the time who are contemplating or in the middle of this process.  They say it’s traumatic and I can well believe it.  People live for the rest of their lives wondering if they made the right decision for mum or dad, and even thinking that they’d make a different decision now that they’ve had the experience. 

Over the last few months, for BBC Radio Scotland, I’ve been interviewing people who are either contemplating, or in the process of, choosing a care home.  And I’ve been talking to some who have been through that experience.  The results are mixed.  Happiness and security at a difficult time, or a nightmare.

It is an issue all across the world. Even within the UK there are four different countries with different health and social care systems.  The differences are small and subtle, but they will trip you up even more so because of that. Misinformation is common.

For example, in Scotland there are over 850 care homes for older people.  That amounts to a little over 41,000 rooms.  In the last decade the number of resident who are over 85 years of age has gone up by 12%.  It is now almost half of those in care homes.  The number of voluntary sector and public sector beds is decreasing; 28% fewer in the last ten years, but the private sector only increased by 7%.  So in Scotland there are fewer beds for greater need.  Or maybe we are more successful at keeping people where they want to be - at home.  

But who does this caring at home?  Around 17% of the adult population is a carer.  Over 41% of carers are men though the majority of those caring and cared for are women.  It’s a skills and age thing.  And affected by working patterns.  In families, the less well paid person would (sensibly) be the one to give up paid work to care, and that’s often the woman.

And who pays?  In Scotland the council will pay around £650 per week for a care home bed.  Families who have the money and who are not impressed with what you get for £650 may "top up" with more if they want a superior service.  At the top end a care home can cost £1,500 per week to the private payer.  The details of who pays, what you have to pay, whether you have to sell your house, who can make decisions…all of this complex stuff means that you don’t just need to talk to your health and social care professionals, you probably need independent financial advice as well, particularly if you own your home or have more than £25k in the bank. 

Listen in on Wednesday February 1st at 13.30 GMT and Sunday 5th at 06.00 GMT or catch up on BBC Radio Scoltand iPlayer and get in touch with questions.