Healthwatch: Planning for care needs

September 18, 2018

People are not planning for care needs in later life, according to new research that suggests people would rather 'wait and see'.

The research, conducted by independent health and care champion Healthwatch, suggests the current lack of information and advice is creating a culture where people aren't planning for care needs because they see it as too complicated and difficult to prepare for something that is ‘impossible to pin down’.

Encouraging people to plan for care needs ‘just in case’ is the biggest hurdle for the Government’s Green Paper, according to the Healthwatch research. It found that:

  • A third of over 55s haven’t given any thought to what care they might need as they get older, adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude instead.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 feel ‘fully prepared’ should their circumstances suddenly change and they or a loved one need care support.

When it comes to planning for care needs, Healthwatch says there are few initiatives from Government compared with planning for retirement generally - for example, ensuring you have a pension. The limited help that is on offer focuses almost entirely on financial planning, with no real effort to help people think about what sort of care they may want or need.

Whilst people’s most common questions around care focus on the potential cost, the research also highlighted a clear need for greater promotion of the sort of care available and thelevel of quality people should expect.

Greater understanding of how care services can help people live fulfilling lives is vital, so that if crises occur, planning for care needs is easier and people can make informed decisions for themselves, family and friends.

Quotes from members of the public who contributed to the research include:

'What are we meant to be planning for? I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or I may never need to go in to a care home.'

'I wouldn’t know whether it would be a care home or a nursing home, or how old I would be.'

'People can barely afford to live now. We live in the present.'

The Government’s green paper on social care is expected to focus on systemic problems like funding and workforce issues. The feedback Healthwatch has gathered from the public suggests that these alone will not fix the underlying challenges facing the sector.

The research shows the need for greater emphasis on information and advice about the support and services available, so can be better prepared if something happens that means they need care and support.

Commenting on the research, Imelda Redmond CBE, National Director of Healthwatch England and one of the independent advisers on the Government’s social care green paper, said, 'We all hope to retire one day, but we often don’t like to think about things like pensions. Yet recent changes like the auto enrolment scheme have played a massive part in making things much easier for people.

'When it comes to planning for big unknowns, like whether or not we will need care support or will have to move into a care home, it is much harder. This is not helped by the poor availability of information and the lack of good quality products out there to help people plan.

'Encouraging people to prepare for something that may not happen, but will have a huge impact on quality of life if it does, is the very real and very human challenge that the Government’s plans for the social care sector will need to address.

'We are living longer, but not necessarily in way that means we make the absolute best of later life. To address this reality, we need social care to be preventative, but also to build its capacity to enable us all to live the lives we want in our old age. So let’s build a system that encourages earlier planning, starting with the lowest level of need and creating a culture where accessing care and support becomes a normal part of the ageing process.'

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