Sue Savill, partner at Ashfords, looks at the complex world of social care.
THE great news is that I am likely to live longer than previous generations thanks to innovations in medicine.
The less good news is that most of you are just like me!
A greater proportion of the population is living longer and needs support to live with dignity and as independently as possible.
At some point in my life I expect I will need help from someone else to care for myself.
Our team meets people every day who have reached that point or have friends or family who are in that situation.
We also meet people who are thinking ahead to a time when they might need that help - either personally or for their business.
Others have had bad news and are preparing for what might come next.
In every case these people are thinking about or confronting situations that most of us push to the back of our minds. We simply don't want to think about this topic and tell ourselves "I'll deal with it if it happens".
Preparing for the day when you might need care means getting to grip with complex rules and terminology .
And problems often arise when the first encounter with these processes is at a time when there is an urgent, unplanned-for need.
For example, you might have been contacted by the police after a relative with dementia has been found in a public place in a confused state.
You will need to deal with the police, the local authority and the health service. Your relative may visit a mental health assessment unit and you may need to find them a care home.
You will be asked to make decisions, sign forms and enter into commitments possibly without understanding fully what they are.
You will be asked how their care will be paid for.
You may need to gain access to their home, bank accounts etc. You may be told that the nursing home you have selected is too expensive unless you are personally willing to pay some of the cost. You may be told that you have to sell or accept a charge against your relative's house.
At the same time you will be dealing with your own feelings and coming to terms with how a condition has changed the person you used to know. You may be feeling guilty, even though you know you're trying to do the right thing.
I am constantly humbled by how well people cope when dealing with this storm of demands and emotions. However one thing most people don't realise is that at the point they or a friend/relative need care they are entering into a negotiation.
The vast majority of those in the care sector do a fantastic job, but we all know money is tight.
The biggest area of spending for most local authorities is care services. That area of spending is not protected and councils are finding themselves having to make cuts, just as need is increasing.
This causes 'pinch points' in terms of access to and quality of care.
Local authorities are also being more assertive in ensuring that, as far as possible, people are paying for their own care.
NHS funding is protected but the organisation is seeking ways to make money go further - in particular with the introduction of 'Personal Healthcare Budgets' for those with long term care needs.
Care funders and providers want to help you but they are not necessarily 'on your side' when determining need and deciding who will pay for it.
The private client team here at Ashfords has found that people tend to get better results when they have done some planning and have a basic understanding of the care system and their rights and responsibilities.
Over the next 12 months, via this Care Matters information section we will give you the basics you need when planning care and dealing with providers/funders.
We welcome your 'war stories' and questions about your rights - and if you need help, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01823-232313.
By Sue Savill, partner at Ashfords.