The impact of coronavirus on those in care
The news has been full of reports of the impact of coronavirus on care homes and their residents. At Old Mill, our specialist Later Life advisers thought it would be useful to highlight a few issues that are relevant for those of you who have a family member currently in a care home or needing care.
29th April 2020
Andrew Page See profile
- Most care homes are rightly restricting visits from families. This can be distressing for both families and loved ones that are resident in care homes as regular contact can be very reassuring. In these uncertain times, disruption to a routine can be unsettling, but it should be possible to arrange safe contact either on the phone, video calls or perhaps through a closed window. Maybe even resort to old fashioned letters or cards. Recent announcements by Government ministers has thankfully changed the advice and relatives can now be present if sadly their loved one has reached the end of their life. We hope that good care providers will find a safe way for this to be facilitated.
- It’s even more important in these times for you to keep in touch with the care home and to keep communicating. This will ensure you are kept informed of how your loved one is coping, how the staff are coping and whether there are any cases of the virus present in the home etc.
- Whether in lockdown or not, care fees still need to be paid. Make sure that access to bank accounts is easy remotely and for those who are not comfortable or able to use online access, talk to the bank. If there’s a Lasting Power of Attorney in place this can be registered with the bank enabling transactions to continue during these challenging times and beyond. With fluctuating investments, you may wish to consider alternative methods of funding care. It’s still possible to arrange Care Fees Payment Plans – a way of providing guaranteed income for life in return for a lump sum. These aren’t for everyone, so please discuss this with a qualified Society of Later Life Adviser (SOLLA), who can arrange a full analysis of the current finances and help you to make an informed decision on how best to fund care. This is taking a little longer than normal at present as we wait for responses from care providers and GPs, although at least one provider has said they aren’t relying on GP reports at present to reduce the strain on the NHS at this challenging time.
- Self-isolating individuals may be considering the importance of putting a Lasting Power of Attorney in place
- There may be Attorneys already appointed but not actively involved and therefore unaware of the practical support this appointment can provide in a lockdown situation
- There will be those who sadly pass away during this time. It’s a most surreal situation, but we’re here to provide practical support and guidance on how to deal with the steps that follow such a loss.
The self-isolating measures may have highlighted an obvious decline in health of a neighbour or loved one. Attendance Allowance is a non-means tested benefit providing certain requirements are met. Do speak to one of our SOLLA accredited Later Life Advisers who can talk you through the process and provide guidance on whether an application might be appropriate at this time.
For those in hospital, discharge will be much quicker and without choice over location. If discharge to home is not advisable this will be to a suitable bed in the community, e.g. a rehabilitation bed or a residential nursing home.
All this care and support will be paid for by the NHS for the duration of the emergency period.
Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be required to fund new and enhanced care packages in full during the emergency period, under discharge-to-assess arrangements. The Government has confirmed that emergency money is available for this purpose.
One of the important sources of funding for care is NHS Continuing Health Care. This is available for those whose needs are considered severe enough and meet the criteria in the different areas to qualify, and means the NHS pay the entire cost of the care. It’s for those whose needs are assessed as having a primary health need. As you may expect, this is very difficult to obtain.
The recent Coronavirus Act – the emergency legislation that covers a very wide range of legal changes included changes to NHS Continuing Health Care (CHC) assessments will impact as follows:
1. Assessments for eligibility
NHS CHC assessments will not be required and are therefore expected to stop for the duration of the emergency period, in all care settings. CCGs have been instructed to free up staff from CHC assessment processes to support the new arrangements for discharge from hospital. A log will be kept of individuals who may need a full CHC assessment after the emergency period.
Individuals who disagree with a previous CHC eligibility decision are still able to access the appeal process, however, the timeframe for CCGs to deal with that request has been relaxed.
3. Review of people already receiving NHS Continuing Healthcare
There’s an expectation that CCGs will take a proportionate view to carrying out the normal reviews of individuals who are currently eligible for CHC, at three months and annually.
The emergency legislation states that reviews should focus on ensuring that the individual’s care package is meeting their needs instead of focusing on whether they remain eligible for CHC.
After the emergency period, some people will have to begin contributing to, or fully funding their own care, according to the outcome of their CHC assessment or Local Authority means-testing.
Normally, for those people requiring care, the Local Authority has a duty to assess your needs for care and agree a care package for the delivery of the individual’s care needs. The assessment for care should be separate from the assessment of their financial means to fund care. Everyone in this situation is entitled to a free assessment of their care needs even if it turns out they have to pay for their own care.
The Coronavirus Act reduces this duty to a power. This may sound like a small detail, but it’s important as the Local Authority is no longer forced to make assessments unless it would cause a breach of human rights by not doing so. They also do not have to undertake financial assessments but will of course retain the power to backdate assessment of finances when the emergency period is over.
It’s important to remember though that Government advice is that ‘the changes should only be exercised by Local Authorities where this is essential in order to maintain the highest possible level of services. They should comply with the pre-amendment Care Act provisions and related Care and Support Statutory Guidance for as long and as far as possible.’
Our Later Life advisers are each accredited by the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) and specialise in the financial needs of older people. The accreditation process that they have been through with SOLLA means that you can be assured that, as well as having a detailed understanding of your likely needs and the options that may be available to you, they have had to demonstrate their ability to offer the practical help and guidance needed to help you make the right decisions at the right time.
SOLLA accredited advisers provide specialist advice on:
- Long Term Care Funding
- Pensions and annuities
- Tax Planning (Inheritance Tax)
- Investments and Savings
Clearly there are a lot of changes and upheaval during what is a trying time for all. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of the Old Mill Later Life advice team if you want to discuss your situation. We’re here to listen, support and keen to help and your families through this challenging time.