My Nan used to be a real hard arse.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago and soon after was put on the partially sighted list. Her second husband, Jim, died six years ago and because she was unable to look after herself, the house was sold and she moved in with my mother, in the neighbouring town of Gosport.
Nan’s illness progressed and two years later the decision was made that she should be moved to a care home; Mum had become just too scared to go to work and leave her on her own.
Ferndale is a nice enough place; clean and bright with welcoming staff. The residents sit around the day room; a few still seemingly of sound mind, some silent, other’s jeering and combative.
My Nan sits quietly in a tall backed arm chair, frail and contemplative. She frowns at most things and remembers little but she has formed a close bond with another of the residents and sits holding his hand; Bill smiles a lot and talks to you, eyes dancing, like he recognises you. Sometimes one will refer to the other as if it’s their late partner.
One time, Bill had a bad day; Mum said, “Fuck, she’s gonna kill another one…”
It costs £2,100 per month for Nan to stay there and because she has ‘savings’ of over £23,250 she has to meet the cost herself. Once they dip below that then the local authority should help with care costs.
But Nan is not alone, it is estimated that around 20,000 people each year are forced to sell their homes to pay for their care.
Mum has a sister. Jim had two children. His Will states that his estate must be used to provide care for Nan until she passes away; then the remainder is to be split four ways.
Since Nan is non compos mentis now, Mum has power of attorney. She has had problems in the past, using funds from my Nan’s accounts for her care, particularly when they were living together. It has reached the point where she is scared to pay for anything in case she is accused of any wrongdoing.
According to recent government research, the cost of care in old age averages £50,000 and almost one in five over 65s who need residential care will pay in excess of £100,000.
One in 100 will see more than £300,000 of their life savings dwindle away.
Nan was Portsmouth born and wishes to have her ashes intered with her first husband in the local Cemetery; the problem with that is that now she is resident in a nursing home in another town she will need to pay double for that internment.
The grave has been purchased but this will still total another £1,000 and that’s without funeral costs.
“People,” says my mum, “are bled dry even when dead.”
And she should know, she’s worked for a Funeral Director for over a decade.
Nan’s first husband – Mum’s father – was Scottish. Nan didn’t want to move up there though so current Scottish policy is a cruel twist. North of the border, personal care is available without charge for everyone aged 65 and over who have been assessed by the local authority as needing it.
A recent government-commissioned review into the future funding of social care by economist Andrew Dilnot encourages the ‘middle classes’ to take out insurance to cover the first £35,000 of their care before the state provides help.
There should be a ‘more generous means test’ and government investment of up to £3bn to fund this. A source for the Guardian in June said that David Cameron and George Osborne had pretty much vetoed this recommendation due to the ‘potential political pitfalls and financial commitments it would involve.’
The report also recommended raising the savings threshold from £23,250 to £100,000. I don’t know exactly how much money my Nan has left, but raising this bar would surely help to keep the wolves from my mother’s door.
As far as Mum’s concerned, the bottom line seems to be that the Government doesn’t care about old people. All three of my Nan’s loves fought bravely for their country – giving their lives, either on the field of battle or effectively, years later – and yet here she is, being bled dry by a society that wouldn’t be here but for them.
I guess she should have moved to Scotland after all.
Maybe we all should.