Understanding the care system: The basics

30 May 2024 | Written by Lottie


The process of finding care in the UK

Navigating the UK care system can be complex, involving multiple people and varying levels of support. The journey typically begins with an assessment of care needs, which can be carried out by local authorities or healthcare professionals. This assessment aims to determine the level of support required and eligibility for publicly funded care services. Here is a brief outline of how you can start the process:

  1. Contacting your local authority: Reach out to the local authority’s adult social services department to request a care needs assessment.
  2. Initial screening: The local authority may conduct an initial screening over the phone or in person to gather basic information about the individual’s situation and urgency of care needs.
  3. Assessment: During the assessment, the individual’s physical, mental and emotional needs are evaluated, as well as their ability to perform daily tasks.
  4. Assessment review: Based on the assessment findings, the local authority determines the level of care needed and eligibility for publicly funded support.
  5. Next steps: Depending on the assessment outcome, the individual may be referred to appropriate care services, such as home care, residential care or day services.
  6. Financial support: Conduct a financial assessment or means test to see if  the care recipient is eligible for local authority or funding support.

Once the care needs are assessed, individuals and their families can explore different care options. These may include:

  1. Residential care: Residential care homes offer 24-hour support and accommodation for those who require a higher level of assistance with daily tasks and/or medical needs.
  2. Nursing care: Nursing homes provide round-the-clock nursing care for individuals with complex healthcare needs, often including dementia care or end-of-life care.
  3. Home care: Providing support in the individual’s own home, ranging from assistance with personal care to household chores and companionship.

The choice of care option depends on factors such as the individual’s preferences, level of dependency and financial resources.

Cost of care considerations

The cost of care in the UK can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type of care required, the location and the individual’s financial circumstances. While some individuals may be eligible for publicly funded care provided by local authorities, others may need to fund their care privately, either through personal savings, assets or insurance policies.

On average, the cost of residential care is £50,000 per year, with nursing care typically being more expensive due to the additional healthcare services provided. Home care costs may vary depending on the level of support required and the duration of care visits. For example, companionship care, where you can receive social interaction and quality time with a friendly visiting carer, will be cheaper than helping a loved one get dressed, bathe and prepare meals.

The financial burden of care costs can be significant for individuals and families, often requiring careful financial planning and consideration of available support options.

£3.5 Billion goes unclaimed every year when it comes to social care. Which is frankly, shocking. How is it possible, with all the rising costs of care, that this money goes unclaimed? Well the answer is in the complexity. It isn’t easy to find out what money you are eligible for as there are a host of different schemes and benefits available, each with a different criteria and process. However, the team at Lottie have an entire list of resources available to break this down for you if you would like to learn more about funding later life care.

How to tell if a loved one needs support

Recognising the signs that a loved one needs additional care can be challenging, but is crucial for ensuring their well-being.  

One of the most apparent signs is a noticeable decline in physical health. This can manifest as:

  • Frequent falls or balance issues: An increase in trips and falls can indicate mobility problems.
  • Unexplained weight loss: This might be due to difficulty in preparing meals or loss of appetite.
  • Neglected personal hygiene: If they are not bathing regularly, wearing soiled clothes or neglecting oral care, it may indicate that personal care is becoming too challenging.

Social isolation and changes in mood can also signal a need for support:

  • Withdrawal from social activities: If they stop participating in hobbies or social gatherings, it may indicate depression or anxiety.
  • Distinct change in behaviour: Mood swings and erratic behaviour, without clear reasons, can be concerning.

Finally, difficulty performing daily activities may be a indicator that a loved one needs care:

  • Trouble with basic tasks: If they are having difficulty dressing, eating or using the bathroom independently.
  • Medication management: Missing doses or taking incorrect amounts of medication is a serious concern.

The best way to ascertain if a loved one needs care is by communicating with them. However, that is not always easy. Being British, and already perpetually awkward, discussing care with the family can cause mass arguments, stony silences and plenty of passive aggressiveness. It’s a complicated, highly-emotional state of exhaustion for everyone involved.

Make sure to approach every conversation with calmness and empathy. These are not easy conversations to have, but so necessary to ensure our loved ones get the care they need.

Introducing Lottie

As mentioned, care isn’t easy to navigate. Whilst we hope this article has articulated a lot of the basics, there is no one-size-all when it comes to understanding how care works in the UK.

The team at Lottie provide a trusted and free service to help families and retirees better understand, find and fund later living. We know thinking about later life care is difficult. After all, Lottie was created from personal struggles of their own team finding care. It can be stressful, time-consuming and the biggest financial decision a family can make. 

But with an ‘Excellent’ rating on Trustpilot, we enable you to confidently browse thousands of care homes, home care and retirement living options to find the right solution for you and your loved one.

Whether you’re looking for weekly visits from a companionship carer, a specialist dementia care home with landscaped gardens or a retirement flat for you and your beloved pet, Lottie’s got you covered!

A note from The Joy Club: This article was provided by Lottie. We know that concerns around caring for loved ones are front-of-mind for many of our members, and that you would like to see more care and support-focused content within The Joy Club community. That’s why we are delighted to have partnered with Lottie – the UK’s most visited directory for later life services – to bring you high-quality, expert-led content and events.

What’s more, Lottie is offering members of The Joy Club a free concierge service and 5% discount on homecare services*. Lottie’s team of in-house Care Experts are on-hand to give you all the free support, guides and video tutorials you need to make a more informed decision, should you like some extra support. This care concierge service is key to helping as many people as possible understand, find and fund care for their loved ones. Simply call this hotline number, 0330 912 9940, say you’re a member of The Joy Club, and speak to one of Lottie’s Care Experts to find out more.

*The Joy Club will receive a share of the revenue from any homecare services you purchase through Lottie.

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