While most of us understand the rules about “who pays” when someone moves into a care or nursing home permanently, there can be a lot of confusion about who pays – and how much – when that stay is temporary. In fact, the rules are very different and now specialist advice website www.myageingparent.com has set out some helpful guidelines to help families who might be worrying about the bills.
The move from one’s own home into a care or nursing home is not always a “cliff edge event”. Often a person will be there for a few weeks or months, recovering from a stay in hospital, or for a week or so to give their carers respite.
Says the website’s Deborah Stone: “That’s when it’s really worth knowing the rules around who pays. And while they are broadly in line with the principle that those with assets will have to fund their own care, a lot more allowances are made to enable that person to carry on maintaining their home and critically, the value of the home is also taken out of the equation.”
A local authority can actually agree for your relative to stay in a care home on a temporary basis for up to 52 weeks – even longer in exceptional circumstances. Once they do, they can ask for a contribution towards the cost, either by applying a means test straightaway, or, for the first eight weeks, they can ask for an amount they consider reasonable. After eight weeks, the local authority must apply the means test – but it still has to take account of the differences for temporary and permanent residents
So what CAN they ask you to contribute?
When the local authority does eventually carry out the financial assessment means test, the same upper and lower capital limits (£23,250 and £14,250) apply as for permanent residents. However, for temporary stays, the assessment by the local authority must ignore:
- the value of your parent’s home if they intend to return to live there and it is still available for them to do so, or if they are selling it to buy something more suitable; this represents a very big difference – especially if there is no one else living in that house;
- some income to enable payment of bills – eg: water rates, insurance, fuel and so on;
- any help with housing costs from Pension Credit your parent usually receives;
- any Housing Benefit that they normally receive;
- any Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Care component or Personal Independence Payment Daily Living Allowance.
And while other forms of capital and income will be included in the means test, such as personal pensions, if the amounts the local authority ignores from income means your relative still cannot pay their bills at home, you are entitled to ask for a review assessment or to complain to the local authority.
What constitutes the first eight weeks of care?
It’s also important to know that the “eight-week period”, after which any contributions must be put on a far more formal basis, applies to individual periods of care – not regular periods of respite care separated by time at home. They cannot, in effect, “tally up” the short stays.
What happens when one half of a couple enters a care home temporarily?
When this happens, there are still protections in place to ensure the remaining person can keep paying their bills. Pension Credit, for instance, is still calculated and paid at the rate for a couple rather than the rate for two single people.
When temporary care becomes permanent
When this decision is made, the local authority will apply the means test for a permanent resident, although the value of any owned property should be disregarded for 12 weeks from the date the stay becomes permanent.
And if the stay is on a trial basis?
Extra vigilance might be needed here, as some local authorities may treat a trial period as permanent when it comes to charging for it. They should still take into consideration financial commitments at home by increasing the Personal Expenses Allowance – although most of these will only apply for the first 13 weeks.
What happens about intermediate/re-enablement care?
If your parent is having short-term treatment, following a period in hospital, or to avoid having to go into hospital, it will be provided free of charge: there is normally a limit of six weeks. Re-enablement care can be called different things, so check your parent is not being wrongly charge during such a six-week period!
“Knowing the rules around temporary stays in advance can give people peace of mind and help them make the right decision for them, says Deborah Stone, “because it will make a stay far more affordable for many.”