Court of Protection & Mental Capacity
Dementia and care home fees - legal Q&ASeptember 21, 2017
Dementia can have a devastating affect on individuals and their loved ones and unfortunately many decisions must be made throughout a very upsetting and emotional time. It's important to fully understand your options and to receive expert advice when thinking about future plans. Susanna Nichols, Court of Protection Associate looks at the situation of care home fees.
Q: My partner has dementia and has very sadly got to the stage where I can no longer provide the care he needs at home. It has been agreed with the local authority that he needs to move to a residential care home, and the local authority has confirmed that my husband meets their eligibility criteria for moving into permanent residential care. We own our home together and I’m worried that I will need to sell that to pay for him to stay in the care home as we have limited savings. Can the local authority force me to sell our home and use this to fund his care? How does the local authority work out how much my husband needs to pay for his care?
A: I’m sorry to hear that you are worried about your finances on top of what is clearly a very sad situation to be in.
Given that the local authority has already confirmed that your husband meets their eligibility criteria they should set out how they are going to meet your husband’s needs in a care and support plan. They must then carry out a financial assessment to see whether your husband needs to make a contribution to the cost of his care.
Your husband’s care and support budget must include a personal budget if he is going to receive financial support from the local authority. This will set out the cost of meeting his needs, how much the local authority is going to pay and how much your husband has to contribute. Now that the local authority has identified your husband’s eligible needs it has a duty to make sure they are met.
The local authority cannot take your capital or income into account when carrying out a financial assessment for your husband. Your husband’s finances must be treated separately even though you are married and have joint assets.
You said that you have limited savings. The local authority’s financial assessment will refer to ‘capital’, which usually relates to savings or property. If your husband’s savings are in a joint account that you hold together then it is only your husband’s share that is taken into account. The default position is that the local authority will assume that your husband owns half of the funds in a joint account, unless there is evidence that he owns an unequal share. If your husband has more than £23,250 in capital then he will be required to pay the full cost of his care, but if his capital is below this amount then he may qualify for some financial assistance.
You have understandably said that you are worried about having to sell your home to pay for your husband’s care. The property you own with your husband will be disregarded from the financial assessment for as long as you live in it.
You have not said whether either of you are claiming benefits, but you will need to find out whether you should make each make a new claim for benefits after your husband has moved into the residential care home. For example, if you receive Pension Credit as a couple, your entitlement will change when your husband moves into residential care.
Also we should look at whether your husband has made an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney, but if he hasn’t, you should consider whether it is appropriate to make an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your husband’s Deputy so that you can access your husband’s savings. More information on this can be found here. You should consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney yourself if you have not already done so.
For more information on Court of Protection issues contact our specialist team on 0117 930 7569.