The costs of care around the UK are often misunderstood, and families are unsure where they can turn for help and advice or to understand whether they are eligible for local authority support, and if they might be expected to sell a family home to cover care fees.
We speak with many clients who need assistance in learning about the different types of care that may be suitable, how they differ in terms of cost, time spent with the individual, the skills of the care staff, and how availability works within their area.
While care is a complex topic, and every family will have different decision-making factors, here we focus on costs and fees to help you make informed judgments about the right solution for yourself or your loved one.
Understanding fee structures for residential care placements
Let’s start with care homes – one of several potential ways to manage the care for an individual in later life, with complex needs or medical or mobility conditions that make living safely and comfortably difficult without professional support.
Care homes are not universally priced, nor are they free like many NHS healthcare services. Care works very differently, something families are commonly only aware of once the time comes to consider the best way to look after the needs of an older relative or much-loved parent or grandparent.
Types of care homes and fee structures
There are multiple types of residential care, each with a variable fee structure depending on means testing assessments, location, and the level of medical or nursing assistance on offer.
As an overview:
- Care homes can be privately run businesses, funded by charities and non-profit organisations, or managed by the local council or authority.
- Nursing care is a different service from a general care home, where facilities need to have at least a qualified nurse on-site at all times.
- Specialist care homes may focus on specific conditions, such as care homes for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Residential care homes set fees aligned with the costs of running the facility, meaning placements in high-cost regions, such as London, are almost always more expensive than those in the northwest, where living costs are lower.
Your choice of care home, if this is your chosen route, may also depend on the amenities offered. Many care homes try to emulate a home-from-home environment, with activities, social events and regular entertainment schedules.
Average care home fees – and how they are calculated
The latest figures from CareHome.co.uk indicate that the average cost of a care home across the UK is £760, compared to £960 per week for nursing care. Those averages per month work out as £3,290 and £4,160, respectively, or:
- £39,480 annually for a care home place.
- £49,920 per year for nursing care.
We appreciate those are high figures, with the caveat that you may qualify for a contribution towards costs, depending on a means testing assessment and the assets owned by the individual requiring care.
Financial support is assessed against two thresholds, called the lower and upper limit, set by the Department of Health and Social Care. If the person has assets or savings above the lower limit, they are expected to pay for some of the costs of their care, whereas they are expected to pay for all of the care if they own above the upper limit.
For the 2023/24 period, the lower limit is £14,250 and the upper limit £23,250 in England, with higher thresholds in Scotland and a singular £50,000 limit applied in Wales.
Properties are excluded from care home means testing if someone aged 60 or above lives in the family home or if the person intends to remain in their home. Those qualifying for funding support are assigned a personal budget, which sets out what the local authority will contribute and the contribution expected from the individual.
How does home care compare to a residential care Home or nursing home?
In home care is an alternative to all of the care options we have explored thus far. It has the compelling advantage that individuals can remain at home with as much independence as they wish. Care recipients are under no obligation whatsoever to move, rehome pets, give up their home comforts, or relocate with all the stresses that unfamiliarity and upheaval can cause.
However, this is not a trade-off where a person with ongoing personal care needs or a medical condition such as frailty or mobility limitations should expect any compromise in the quality or availability of their care.
Services such as wrap-around live in care services replicate the same attentiveness and professionalism as any residential care facility. Still, they are delivered one-on-one and adapted to the person, entirely tailored to their needs, wishes, preferences and personality.
Typically, live in care is arranged over a long-term period, with one carer working pre-agreed hours or a team of care professionals on rotation, with defined breaks, rest times and sleeping quarters to ensure the arrangement is sustainable, properly structured and supported by experienced care coordinators.
Comparing the costs of later life or specialist care
It is tricky to directly compare the costs of residential care and home care services delivered in the person’s own home – since much depends on whether the individual qualifies for financial support and the level of care required.
Home care is delivered according to the needs of the care recipient, which could be over, say, 20 hours per week, two hours per day, or for eight hours overnight, with charges based solely on the time during which care is delivered, with rates from just over £30 an hour.
The weekly charges of staying in a residential home are not based on pure care delivery since costs include utilities and heating, laundry services, meal provisions and other services, such as hairdressing, where these do not come with an additional fee.
Notably, local council funding support does not have to be paid directly to a care home; you can receive direct payments or payments on behalf of a loved one and take control over how you choose to manage your care needs, whether in or out of a care home.
The first step is to understand what care is likely to cost, evaluate the various ways to address needs, and then consider the potential financial support available – but, at any stage, if you need advice, guidance or support, you are welcome to contact the Guardian Angel Carers team at any time.