Retroladytyping …

Care is (still) not a lifestyle choice

on 10/10/2019

Among all the Brexit talk, the media are, at last, beginning to take notice of the need for dementia care to be funded in the same way as care for other illnesses.  This is my personal take on that …

As things stand, if one’s home is worth more than £100,000, it must be sold to fund care when the owner needs care because they have dementia.  £100,000 .  On the face of it, that’s a lot of money to most people.  However, it doesn’t buy much in the way of housing nowadays, does it?  The average 3 bed semi costs more than that.  Actually ANY decent 3 bed semi costs more than that.  The power that be might argue that charges will only be paid on any amount over that value, but how can that be realised without actually selling that home?  .

Additionally, despite that increased ‘allowance’, that charge is  levied for care in that home.  That 15 minute quick call, which achieves almost nothing, is going to have to be paid for by the recipient and/or their family.   So, as well as being charged for having an illness which necessitates living in a Nursing Home, more able, but still needing care, people will be charged for that care in their own home.  This has all been hidden by the provision that, if a spouse is living in that home, the home will not need to be sold, but a charge will be levied when both have either died or both ‘chosen’ to live in a care home.

My parents both had dementia, my mother so severely that she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for 7 months, with my father remaining at home.  Her care then, which was in an NHS hospital based secure  Unit was funded, but my father was unable to get  funded care at home which met his needs, fifteen minutes once a day not being enough, unsurprisingly.  So, he paid for it privately, and reluctantly.  He was lucky.  He could afford it.  He had worked all his life, never claimed benefits and, while I hesitate to use this argument, had  fought in a bloody War for this country.   Now he needed to get something back and it just wasn’t there.

When he eventually needed to go into a Nursing Home, a charge was levied against their home until we could sell it.  It was a very modest home, worth only £135,000, but was well maintained, well loved and  the source of great pride, that they had ‘something to leave behind.’   Their house was put on the market while the charges against it mounted up  to fund his care, both while in that home and later in the Nursing Home where he ended his days.

He has now died, thankfully never fully understanding how he had been let down by the system.  My mother too has died and was, sadly, too unwell to ever appreciate that her home, and their investment in it,  had been taxed to fund my father’s care, even though, due to the severity of her condition and her family putting up a fight, her care was funded.  A mixed blessing indeed.

My mother, as I said, was severely ill and so her care was funded, after we had argued against the original decision on the grounds that if she was not deserving of full-time continuing health  care,   then how ill did someone need to be before that became the case.   We only found out about CHC funding because I happened to work along the corridor from the local office of the CHC administrators.  How ridiculous is it that we were never told by any of those responsible for her care? Were we ‘lucky’ that her care was funded?  Clearly not.  No-one would choose to see a loved one  in turns distraught or catatonic and needing 24 hour specialist medical care.  We were, however, grateful in a financial way.  That is wrong.  However, if she had been less ill, the cost of her care which amounted to thousands of pounds during the 2 further years she lived, would have had to come out of the value of their home, which they had saved for, worked hard for, and again, never claimed benefits.  Thankfully (and I am aware of the irony of that word) she never knew.

Needing a second home in the form of a Nursing Home is NOT a lifestyle choice.  Dementia and other issues associated with old age are illnesses, in the same way as cancer, heart disease etc are illnesses.  Those living with it, especially in the later, horrible stages, need both health and personal care, the latter being necessary to maintain any semblance of  health, as well as medical care needs.  Both types of  care should therefore be funded under the National Insurance scheme.  That is what insurance is for.  If the risk increases, as it has with an increasingly elderly population and improved diagnosis, the insurance contributions should be increased accordingly.  As with home insurance, if that means subsidising others who need support, then so be it.  That’s democracy and a caring welfare state in action, from the cradle to the grave, even if that grave is later than it was when the welfare state was first set up.

Owning a second home, and being able to spend time in that second home healthily and independently is, however,  a lifestyle choice to many of those who seek to penalise those who need to live in a Care Home.

Part of Mrs May’s pledge during her second election campaign was to cap care costs,  having taken account of the feelings of the electorate.  Now there’s a thing; nothing to do with realising that the electorate aren’t going to take this lying down and she was in danger of losing votes.  We are still waiting Mrs May , Mr Johnson … anyone …

Even if that promise had been kept (and not lost among all the Brexit-ness)  my point  is the same. Dementia is an illness like any other illness, and the necessary care shouldn’t be paid for up-front.  National Insurance is just that – insurance.  We hope we won’t need it, but we don’t mind paying (even a bit more) to make sure we are covered.  The NHS was set up to be free at the point of delivery and the Tories are gradually moving away from that, thinking we won’t notice.   We will and we already have.  Don’t take us for granted.

I have heard a Tory spokesman say that  “People should be content if they inherit £100,000.” Well, yes.  Point taken, except that, at the risk of being accused of generalisation, I wonder how many Tory MPs leave or have inherited £100,000 and been content with that.  My parents had three children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  They bought their house (under Mrs Thatcher’s sell-off of council houses scheme – ironically) with the sole aim of having “something to leave you all.”  They took pride in that.

I feel very strongly that NO charge, other than National Insurance which we all pay, should be made on  people who are in need of healthcare, exactly as it says on the NHS website:

“The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”

Perhaps the powers that seek to be need to re-read that, in case they feel the need to make further changes.  I hope they do, but somehow I doubt it.

There are and will continue to be many, many people in the same situation as my parents.  They will be so ill with dementia, which contrary  IS  very definitely an illness, not just a consequence of old-age, that they need full-time care.  Their dreams of leaving something (more than £100,000 which will be ‘allowed’) to their descendants will be destroyed.  These proposals are no more or less than a tax on dementia.  As a friend commented on my FB page today, we MUST stop it.

As I type, I am aware that there is growing support for a dementia care fund to be set up, with “over 60 MPs” supporting that.  60 out of  650!  That is not good enough.

If you feel the same, please do consider either petitioning your MP, or signing the Alzheimer’s Society petition to stop the differentiation applied to those who have the great misfortune to develop dementia –  links below in bold:

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