Funding care for elderly parents: living-in, care homes and hidden costs explained


Updated on 12 December 2019

When it comes to caring for an elderly or unwell relative, there are plenty of things you need to consider. We've put together a guide to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

What kind of care do they need?

When it comes to caring for an elderly or unwell relative, there are plenty of things you need to consider.

Is the person struggling to live independently? Does he or she need help with personal care such as going to the bathroom or day-to-day tasks, including dressing, buying groceries or collecting medications?

If you've never previously had a seriously ill relative, you'll no doubt have serious concerns regarding cost implications. 

We've put together a guide to answer some of these most commonly asked questions.

How much does it cost to care for your elderly parents at home?

The cost of hiring a carer

From a legal perspective, you'll need to pay any carer or personal assistant at least the minimum wage.

According to The Money Advice Service, payment rates are typically between £10 and £12 per hour depending on the complexity of the individual's condition.

But if you need a carer to move into the home and provide round-the-clock care, it could be as much as £80,000 per year.

There'll also be considerable differences if a person needs care during the night and the cost may vary significantly depending on where your relative lives.

If the carer lives in your relative’s home, you can count the value of his or her accommodation as part of their wage.

Homesharing: could you save by moving in with someone who needs help?

Carer serving meal (Image: Shutterstock)

Finding a carer yourself

The main advantage of this option is that you can make a personal decision as to who provides care, which may be your most important consideration.

However, this would make you an employer under UK law and employees have certain legal rights, which means you'll need to give them payments and set up an employment contract. 

He or she may also be entitled to benefits, such as:

  • Rest breaks;
  • Maternity pay;
  • Holiday pay;
  • Sick pay;
  • Maximum working hours;
  • Redundancy pay;
  • A workplace pension.

During the recruitment process, you may also need to advertise the position and write a job description.

Checks you need to carry out

You'll need to verify the carer's status to work in the UK.

You can ask to check a person's passport or other forms of ID to make sure they're from the European Economic Area or have a valid visa to work in the UK.

You'll most likely also want to make sure anyone you're employing doesn't have a criminal record.

You can obtain more information on these checks through the PVG checks website if you live in Scotland, or Gov.uk if you live anywhere else in the UK.

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Finding care through an agency

If you would prefer to avoid the difficulties involved in finding a carer yourself, you may find it easier to use an agency, which will handle all taxes and insurance.

An agency would also be responsible for conducting police checks.

Be aware, however, you won't have as much say in the person who provides the care and you'll also need to pay for the service. 

Before contacting an agency, it's a good idea to have a clear view of exactly the type of care you need help with.

You should also ensure the agency is a member of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, which ensures agencies follow certain rules and regulations.

Will my local authority pay for care

If your relative’s savings are below £23,250, the local authority may help with the costs of care.

As well as locating care homes, local authorities may be able to provide assistance with:

  • Meals;
  • Transport;
  • Carers;
  • Home modifications.

The level of savings needed to qualify for local authority help will vary according to where you live in the UK. 

Everything you need to know about pensions

If your relative does qualify for help for all (or part) of the care costs from the local authority, the council may provide these services itself.

Alternatively, you can receive payments from the council, which you can then use towards arranging for care services yourself.

You can contact the social services department of the local council to see if your relative qualifies for help, and they will then carry out a care needs assessment.

Elderly home modifications (Image: Shutterstock)

Self-funding

Your relative will not be entitled to help towards the cost of social care if their savings exceed £23,250 or they own their own property, which only applies if they are moving into social care.

If their savings fall below the thresholds as a result of paying for their own care, they may then qualify for help from their local council.

If they need to cover the cost of funding their own care, there are a number of options you could consider, such as:

Remember, these are complex financial decisions that you and your relatives could later regret so you may want to seek independent financial advice.

Care or residential homes?

Rather than paying for live-in care in your loved one’s property, you could consider getting support in a residential facility, which will typically provide an en-suite room and daily activities.

Although people often use the term 'care home' to refer to any form of residential care, there are two different types:

  • Residential homes: these provide accommodation and help with personal care;
  • Nursing homes: as well as the services of a residential home, there will also be a qualified nurse on hand to help with medical emergencies.

The NHS puts the cost of residential care home at £600 per week, or £840 if you also need nursing.

Nurse providing elderly care (Image: Shutterstock)

However, the costs may increase for those with serious healthcare needs such as dementia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

One of the first steps if you or a loved one is struggling is to ask the local council for a care needs assessment.

How much does pension advice actually cost?

Will my relative need to sell their home?

Although they won't need to sell their home to pay for care in their own property, they may need to do so if they go into residential care – unless their partner continues to live in the property.

The deferred payment scheme could allow them to borrow money for a care home from the council if they have less than £23,250 in savings.

This will need to be repaid when they pass away or sell their home.

Help from the NHS

A very small amount of people could qualify for the NHS continuing care scheme in which the NHS will fully fund care in:

  • A hospice;
  • A care home;
  • Your relative's own home.

It may also include help with costs such as personal care and accommodation if they’re staying in a care home.

Carer providing personal care (Image: Shutterstock)

In England, they'll receive these payments in the form of a personal health budget.

There is no clear-cut guide as to who eligible for this, although the NHS describes it as covering "long-term complex health needs".

Anyone looking to apply for this scheme will need to undergo an assessment.

To learn more, visit the NHS website.

Employing a carer: tax considerations

If you employ a carer, you may be responsible for deducting tax and National Insurance from their wages and paying these to HMRC – though you may not need to do so if the carer earns below a certain amount.

You'll also need to register yourself as an employer with HMRC and set up a payroll.

The best way to contact HMRC

If you fail to do this correctly, you could face hefty penalties or, in extreme cases, a criminal prosecution.

Should you have any questions about your tax obligations, there is a special section on the National Insurance website.

It's also a good idea to set up a contract of employment to ensure you are both clear in terms of the tax implications.

Insurance

If you employ a person to work in the home, you'll need to take out employer's liability insurance and public liability insurance.

These will cover you if your employee has an accident and is injured in your home.

Your policy will need to cover you for at least £5,000,000 and come from an authorised insurer.

If you employ someone to work in your loved one’s home and don't have proper insurance, you can be fined up to £2,500.

You can also be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to display your employer's liability insurance certificate.

State benefits

Something else to watch out for is ensuring that you receive all the benefits you're entitled to help with care costs.

These typically fall into four categories:

  • Disability Living Allowance: if you're caring for a child under 16 who has difficulties that far exceed the needs of a child of a similar age, you may be entitled to between £23.30 and £148.55 per week;
  • Personal Independence Payments: these are intended to help with the additional costs of having a long-term health condition if you are between 16 and state pension age. Your relative may qualify if they have needed help with everyday tasks for more than three months. The benefits fall into two categories: mobility component (up to £61.20 per week) and daily living component (up to £87.65 per week);
  • Attendance Allowance: if the person you are caring for is over state pension age and needs help during the day and night, he or she may be eligible for this benefit at a lower rate of £58.70 per week and a higher rate of £87.65 per week;
  • Carers Allowance: if you provide care to another person for at least 35 hours per week, you may qualify for the carers allowance of £66.15 per week.

To learn more, visit the Gov.uk website

Where to get help paying for care

If you have any questions about social care, there are a number of organisations that could provide support:

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