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Fact or Fiction, Families Need Advice on Choosing and Paying for Care

26/08/2014 12:44 BST | Updated 22/10/2014 10:59 BST

Fact or fiction, families need advice on choosing and paying for care

Patrick has had a severe stroke and is in hospital. Denise and Ian have decided Patrick won't be fit enough to return home so they are looking for a care home for him.

This story line will be familiar to fans of EastEnders and to the many families up and down the country in a similar situation. What is surprising is that Denise and Ian seem to be making important decisions without getting any advice to guide them through what can be a very confusing care system.

Where are the hospital staff to advise on the best options for Patrick? What about the social workers to advise on discharge planning?

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We have seen Ian and Denise scouring the web for local care homes. They are due to visit some homes shortly. But they could get advice on what to look for from charity advice services and sites like Good Care Guide.

And they need proper financial advice on paying for a place in a care home. At the moment they don't seem to have a clue.

So to help Patrick, Denise and Ian choose the best care home, here are five tips for EastEnders and for families everywhere:

- What are your care needs and how can they be best met? Your council should provide a free assessment of your needs and advise whether they can be met in your own home or in a care setting.

- If you need a care home, your finances will be assessed to see whether the council (or the NHS) will pay or whether you will have to do so. If you are paying your own care fees, it's crucial to get specialist independent financial advice to make the most of your money.

- To find out which care homes are in the area you are looking, visit a site like Good Care Guide. As well as linking to inspection reports by the Care Quality Commission, Good Care Guide enables older people and their families to leave reviews so you can see what other people's experience of a home has been, like TripAdviser for hotels and restaurants.

- Spend time visiting homes to get a real feel for the setting before making a choice. Speak to residents and staff as well as the manager, and see how well they communicate and interact with each other. What are residents doing? How well staffed is the home? Have a meal in the home and speak to other families. Read the contract terms and conditions as well as the brochures and make sure the small print covers everything you want with no hidden extra fees.

- Make sure the move to the care home is properly planned - whether the older person is leaving hospital or moving from their own home. Don't let hospital staff bounce you into a hasty decision. And make sure that the home can meet the needs of your loved one and is properly prepared for their arrival and knows about their likes, dislikes, history and so on.

The care system can be complex and confusing, so getting good advice and information before you make difficult decisions about care is crucial - whether or not you are in EastEnders.

Photo courtesy of BBC EastEnders