Paying your own care costs but the money’s run out?

If the money you’ve been using to pay for your long-term care is running out, what are your options? Who can you turn to for financial support, and what could happen to you if you’re in a care home? Here’s what you need to know.

First steps – ask for care needs assessment

Before you do anything, arrange for a care needs assessment – you might find that you’re now eligible for local authority support.

The assessment could show that your care needs now mean you need a place in a care home.

Alternatively, you might be offered a home care package, or a place in sheltered housing or similar accommodation.

If the care needs assessment shows you are eligible for support, you’ll need to arrange a financial assessment to see whether you qualify for funding. This will look at your income, savings and assets. It might show that you no longer need to fund your own care.

Depending on the outcome of the financial assessment, you may still need to pay some of your care costs. So it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the benefits and tax credits you’re entitled to.

Are you eligible for NHS continuing healthcare?

Did you know?

NHS Continuing Care could cover accommodation costs if the care is provided in a care home or could contribute towards the costs of care if you stay at home.

If you have a disability or complex medical problem, you might qualify for free NHS continuing healthcare (CHC) if you’re an adult, or free NHS continuing care (CC) if you’re under 18. It covers personal care and healthcare costs, such as paying for specialist therapy or help with bathing or dressing.

It may also include accommodation if the care is provided in a care home, or support for carers if you’re being looked after at home.

If your increased costs are due to worsening health or injury, you might now qualify for this free support. There’s also a chance that the eligibility criteria have changed since you were last assessed. You might not even have heard about this type of funding before. Either way, it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor, carer or social worker.

Will you be able to stay in your care home?

Don’t panic

There are always options to keep you in a place that meets your needs.

First check your contract with the care home. Some care providers will let you stay while you apply for funding, and they might accept a lower rate from your local authority so you wouldn’t have to move out.

These days, the amount local authorities pay is usually a lot less than care homes charge. If you can’t make up the shortfall in some way, such as getting friends or family to top up your contribution, you might have to move to a cheaper or shared room, or into another care home which accepts the local authority funding as full payment.

If you do qualify for local authority funding, you’re not allowed to top up your care home fees yourself from your capital. You will have been financially assessed to pay what you can afford.

If the local authority suggests a place that meets your needs and you still want to move into a more expensive home, you can ask a third party (usually a relative or friend) to pay the extra. This is called a ‘third party contribution’.

Call Turn2Us on 0808 802 2000 to find out about charities or benevolent funds that might be able to help with top-ups.

What if you own property?

If you’re a homeowner, moving to a smaller property could free up the money you need to pay for your care. Moving somewhere better suited to your needs might also improve your quality of life and bring you closer to friends and relatives. Or you could look at schemes which release some of the capital in your home to pay for care.

You can use the value of your home to help fund your care in other ways too, for example through equity release, in which case you wouldn’t have to move at all.

Your local authority can offer you the option of delaying payments so you don’t have to sell your home to pay for care. This is known as a deferred payment. The local authority will then reclaim what you owe in fees when you sell your house, or from your estate after your death.

Are there any short-term solutions to the problem?

If family or friends are unable to top up your payments and you still own a home which you’ve left empty, you could consider these options.

12-week Property Disregard

Your local authority must help with the first 12 weeks of care-home fees if you were in a care home and self-funding your care but are now eligible for local authority assistance because you no longer have enough money to pay for your fees.

The 12 weeks does not run from the date when you first went into permanent care but applies when your capital, excluding the value of your property, comes to less than the capital threshold for long-term care.

This is to give you time to work out another solution to help pay for your care.

If your local authority does not offer a 12-week property disregard on the grounds that you were a self-funding permanent care home resident, you should complain about this decision and ask for it to be reviewed.

Read more about capital thresholds for paying for long time care in our guide Local Authority funding for care costs