Is it just me…?

Fidelma Tinneny gives an honest review of the BBC’s new Cost of Care Calculator.

This month the BBC has launched its Care Calculator. I am pleased to see the reality of the much heralded care cap is being exposed to the general public. Many will be disappointed to see how much they are likely to contribute and how long they will have to wait before the cap kicks in. It will be a surprise to many that their care fund will only increase at the ‘usual price’ (often hundreds of pounds less that the actual cost of local care) set by their local authority (LA), and that ‘hotel costs’ will be excluded.

However, the care calculator is a useful tool, if only to emphasise the woefully inadequate rates offered to provide care.  After hotel costs, the calculator gives figures of between £200 and £300 per week to provide care: to have one or two people assist you to live 24-hours per day – to wash, dress, nourish, medicate, keep you well, call the doctor, deal with problems as they arise, change bedding and much more intimate attention, consuming time and costs that have to be paid for; as well as entertain you to your own taste and ensure every part of your day and what is done with, to and for you is documented to meet the increasingly demanding  ‘evidence’ for officiates who seems to think they know better! These seem more like daily rates!

This week, two frustrated families have called our care association to ask about calculating the 12-week property disregard – it is the same process as this well-intentioned but sadly flawed approach. They are frustrated with the lack of clarity, knowledge and assistance they had received – whilst having to deal with ill and frail parents, clear out the family home, manage finances and the complex bureaucracies of the care world. This system will add to that despair.

The new system leads people to believe they will spend no more than £72,000, but in reality you are likely to quadruple this. My care calculator, based upon a Berkshire postcode reckoned my care would cost me £128,000 (over four years and eight months).

The care calculator is a useful tool, if only to emphasise the woefully inadequate rates offered to provide care.

Yet basing care fees on what LAs say they pay is pitiful. It is well-recognised that LA fees do not meet costs, and few care organisations can deliver high quality care without privately funded service users subsidising LA clients. My own calculations predict I will pay £81,000 per year inclusive of my benefits.

As a nurse, manager and care provider I find the negativity about elderly care upsetting and at times dishonest. We are largely peddled as money-grabbing, unkind, uncaring individuals. When the news is not about poor care, it is frequently misleading – the waiting time for assessments, accessing the specialists you need urgently, continuing healthcare funding, property disregard, and now calculating care fees…

Many nursing homes in our area frequently charge £1,500 per week – and the cost is rising, as is the dependency level of service users and accordingly staffing levels. Good staff, and nurses particularly, are very hard to acquire and retain. In 22 years of elderly care, it feels an increasingly oppressive environment for service users, staff and families. Please can we have some decent honesty?

To test the BBC’s Care Calculator for yourself visit: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30990913

Do you agree with Fidelma? Have you tested the BBC’s Care Calculator? Add to the debate in the comments below. Subscription required

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