Empowering the vulnerable and elderly is an important part of the work we do as Court of Protection solicitors. Whilst much of the advice we provide to our clients is technical and Court based we also aim to offer solutions to problems that are practical and pro-active.
People are generally living longer and as such there is an increasing strain on the support that is available to meet the needs of our vulnerable clients, many of whom wish to remain fiercely independent.
There are many ways in which we can help support the vulnerable members of our community to live independent and engaging lives for as long as possible. There are some interesting schemes that offer support such as the Homeshare scheme which provides affordable housing for young people in London whilst providing companionship and assistance to elderly persons living on their own.
This scheme allows an elderly person to provide accommodation to a young adult ‘home-sharer’ by permitting lodging in a spare room in exchange for up to 10 hours of assistance around the house. This might include cleaning or help with shopping. The home-sharer would usually commit to stay in the house overnight for 5 or 6 nights a week to offer security and assistance if needed during an emergency. The home sharer is able to live in London accommodation rent free in return.
These sorts of arrangements only work well where the support that an individual requires is low-input. As medical conditions deteriorate and care needs increase families find themselves providing an increasing amount of care which can sometimes become all-consuming. Where an individual’s care needs are so great that they require regular medical attention it is often difficult, if not possible, to look after that individual at home. Some of our elderly clients cannot remember who their daughter or son are. Others become violent due to the effects of dementia on their personalities and they become unmanageable. It is at that point that one might need to think about seeking assisted living accommodation or a care home arrangement to help look after a loved one. Placing a relative into a care home his often one of the most difficult decision to make from an emotional perspective. There are also financial worries associated with the potential cost of care.
It is usual for families to look for support from the local authority for the cost of funding a care home placement. The local authority will assess an individual’s care needs and ascertain what help they require. There will also be a financial assessment to ascertain whether some or all of the care costs will be paid for by the local authority or if any of the costs will be paid for privately. Care homes are expensive with many starting at £500-£600 per week and others costing £1,200 per week. Families are naturally worried about the impact that the cost of care will have on an individual’s assets.
Financial assessments are undertaken by reference to a set criteria but they will all be undertaken on an individual case-by-case basis. It might be that a person’s home will be taken into account unless their partner or a close relative continues to live there. Capital in bank accounts will certainly always be relevant especially if it exceeds the modest cap which is currently £23,350. The rules on who is entitled to what are involved and sometimes families disagree with the care needs assessment that a local authority undertakes. These can be challenged on occasion but it is not an easy process.
Notably there have been some significant changes to the duty on local authorities with regards to the level of care they provide to individuals - this is governed by the Care Act. This legislation introduces duties on local authorities to promote an individual’s well-being relating to: personal dignity, physical and mental hearth and emotional well-being; protection from abuse and neglect; social and economic well-being and suitability of accommodation, amongst others. The role of the carer and families appears to have been grated greater recognition under this Act encouraging a more collaborative approach to the care and protection of vulnerable adults. We hope that these changes will see families supported to a greater level throughout this often difficult and emotive time.