Posted by Owen Griffiths at 31/08/2012 15:32:49
Over the past week, I’ve been trying to get a handle on how my grandma's care home place in Wales is funded. I started out by talking to my parents about the current arrangements, but then I ran up against a hurdle I'm sure many of you have come across too – money isn't a natural thing for families to talk about.
I found that my mum didn’t feel comfortable discussing financial matters with me at all. This was despite the fact (as I later learned) that she didn’t actually know enough of the details herself to be able to discuss them! I hadn't expected Mum’s view of the generation gap to still be so strong. I'm nearly 30 and work in finance but, as she sees it, the grown-ups’ finances are still private and not something she wants to involve 'children' in.
However, my dad sees things differently. Being able to talk about financial matters with me is part of the return he expects from his parental investment! The problem for my dad is that talking about grandma is difficult because of the immense sadness it carries. So it can be hard to get the conversational ball rolling. Usually, we do something like go for a walk. As soon as the topic of grandma is raised, he’ll be adamant he doesn’t want to talk about it. Then, he'll go quiet for a few minutes and the flood gates will open. All the emotion and worry he's not really talked about to anyone comes out. He's always better for having talked about it but, understandably, it's not a conversation anyone readily wants to start, especially when they're having a bit of rare down time.
Anyway, once I’d got the conversation started with my dad, I began piecing things together. It turns out there are some rather blunt truths when it comes to care for the elderly. Clean and comfortable residential care does not come cheap. A typical care home place comes in around £630 a week, or £32,700 a year: a good deal higher than an average salary.
As my grandma has no material assets (other than a substantial collection of plastic garden gnomes), her local authority pays the large part of her fees. However, there’s a catch for those in her situation. Any income, such as state or personal pensions, then goes to the care home to contribute towards the costs of care. The resident then gets £22.30 a week back for personal expenses.
That’s the bit that just feels unfair to me, no matter how I look at it. Residential care is a huge cost to expect society to pick up. However, leaving the less well-off elderly with nothing other than pocket money seems harsh. Even though I know, in my grandma's case, she has no need, or opportunity to make use of it.
I guess there are no simple answers.
My next post will be about my visit to Wales to see Grandma, along with an update on how we’re getting on with making arrangements for her care. I’ll have a picture to go with that one too.
You can also read my previous post on finding an Alzheimer's care home in Staffordshire.