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Care home placements: Costs overriding older people’s basic human rights, says charity

Published on 23 July 2018 02:42 PM

The basic human rights of some of our most vulnerable older people are in danger of being neglected as local authorities opt for low cost options when allocating care home placements, finds Age Cymru.

The charity’s Information and Advice service has had a significant number of calls from desperate families saying they can’t afford top up fees for a loved one to move into a care home that has the capabilities to provide appropriate care.

With some care homes charging up to £1,200 a week, families are being forced to accept care homes that are not capable of dealing with complex needs such as advanced dementia. The charity has heard from families who feel that inappropriate placements have led to an already vulnerable older person deteriorating even further.

Sometimes the local authority will have to use a care home that is more expensive than their usual rates simply because of the lack of places in the area or because the older person may require additional specialist support. Under such circumstances the local authority should agree to meet the extra cost and not pass the burden on to the older resident or their family.

However, the charity has heard of several cases where local authorities are not always clear about the top-up-fee arrangements, or may be requesting them in inappropriate situations, leading to some families facing a very large and unexpected bill.

Age Cymru’s Interim Chief Executive, Victoria Lloyd says: “Welsh government guidance clearly says that care home residents should not have to ask their families to make top-up payments if they have moved into a more expensive home out of necessity, rather than personal preference.

Top-up fees should only be applied where the resident has made a choice to move somewhere more expensive and both they, and their family, are clear about the financial implications. Local authorities must make sure that the top up arrangement is sustainable and affordable for the family. It appears that this is not always happening in Wales”.

“I would urge anyone who is struggling to find a suitable place for a loved one at a care home to call our Information and Advice line on 08000 223 444.”

Case Study
The following case study describes Trish’s (picture attached) battle with Cardiff Social Services to identify and fund a suitable place at a care home for her vulnerable mother.
Over the last few years Trish’s mother, who is living with dementia, became increasingly confused and was often found wandering the streets of Cardiff, sometimes without a coat. As her condition worsened, it became clear that she could no longer cope with living on her own.

Trish contacted Cardiff Social Services and explained that her Mum’s case was now an emergency and that she needed to be placed in a home that would offer some form of safety and security. A temporary place was found for her at a care home, albeit at the opposite side of the City.

Trish’s Mum was then assessed by Cardiff Social Services and found to be in need of stimulating activities because of her levels of intelligence, as well access to her own shower and toilet due to previous surgical procedures.

Three care homes in Cardiff were found to be suitable but Cardiff Social Services stated that Trish would need to agree to pay a top up fee of £550 a week before her mum could move in. Trish’s financial situation means that she has no way of meeting such a ‘top-up fee. Instead the local authority suggested a number of care homes that did not match the assessed needs of her mother.

Trish’s mother was forced to spend 11 weeks in a care home that did not meet her specific needs. Her communication skills deteriorated and she lost the means to undertake simple tasks such as using a door handle.

Finally, after a raft of letter writing and a series of frantic telephone calls, the local authority agreed to pay the top-up-fee for Trish’s mother which allowed her to move into a home that can deal with the complex needs of advanced dementia. As a result, Trish’s mum is now physically active, communicative and content.


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