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Many older people worry about the cost of staying in a residential care home if they are no longer able to cope at home. For some the concern is whether they can afford it at all, for others that it will swallow up the inheritance they hoped to leave their children.

Now, older people’s charity Independent Age has launched a useful and information-packed free advice guide entitled “Paying for your care: Funding your own care at home or in a care home”. The new guide is available to download from the charity’s website, by clicking here, or can be ordered as a hard copy by calling the free helpline on 0800 319 6789.

To support the launch of its leaflet, Independent Age carried out new analysis on the cost of residential care compared to other routinely incurred costs, with some eye-watering results! It found the cost of the average length of stay in a residential care home is equal to around 26 years’ worth of annual holidays for a family of four, or more than five times the average cost of a wedding.

The average family holiday for four costs £3,133* and the average wedding comes in at £15,000, but they pale into insignificance compared to the average £82,000 cost of staying in a residential care home. According to Independent Age, the average time an older person stays in a residential care home is 30 months (two-and-a-half years), at a cost of approximately £32,000 for the first year and increasing in subsequent years. Some older people could pay more than this, depending on where they stay and the level of care they require.

That £32,000 average cost for the first year is fractionally less than the average cost of a deposit for a first-time buyer purchasing their first home (£32,899). The average weekly mortgage payment in the UK is now £147.60 and the average weekly rent is £92, both far lower than the average weekly cost of a residential care home place at £605, or the £845 average weekly cost of nursing care. Meanwhile, the average UK salary is £28,200 – almost £4,000 less than the average cost of a year’s stay in a residential care home.

You might think it would be considerably cheaper to receive regular care in your own home, but you might be wrong. Although costs vary depending on where you live and the level of care you need, the average cost for someone with high care needs has been estimated at £36,950 for the first year.

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “We get a lot of calls to our Helpline about paying for care, and many people don’t realise that social care is means-tested and that there are costs involved. When you think about it in the context of a house deposit, wedding, or family holiday, you start to realise how high and confusing care costs can be.

“We know that a lot of people don’t think about care in advance, but there are things you can do even if you haven’t planned ahead. So when the time comes, it’s important to get help and expert advice from charities like Independent Age.”

Around 56% of all independent sector care home residents will end up having to pay for some or all of their care themselves. The care system is complex and can often be confusing and difficult to understand, especially for those paying for their own care, who may not get all the information and assessments they need unless they know what to ask for. That’s why Independent Age has launched its new, free guide, which provides information on paying for care both at home and in a care home.

It is packed with tips to help older people and their families understand the sometimes complex process of paying for their own care. It provides practical information on topics such as how council assessments can help you work out what care you need, different ways to pay for your care, and what to do if your financial situation changes. It also aims to help people recognise the variations between different types of care, as going into a care home is not the only option. For some people, receiving care at home is what’s best for them, so it’s important to consider all the options.

The new “Paying for your care” leaflet is just one of several free guides produced by the charity covering a wide range of issues affecting older people. To find out more, visit its website at www.independentage.org or call 0800 319 6789.

* Sources for all the average costs stated above can be found by clicking here.

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