The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the UK’s later life care system. Like many essential services, it has come under extreme pressure and is rising to this enormous challenge, but it is a worrying time for those who are in care or need to consider care services for themselves or their family. Financial advisers should be involved in every aspect of later life planning for their clients, including preparedness for professional care, so we spoke to one of the country’s leading care advisors to find out more about the pressures and complexities of the care system during this crisis.
Grace Consulting provide families with bespoke, independent advice on how to find the best possible care solutions for their needs and wishes.
Why is this pandemic putting such a strain on the care system?
As with all key services, the care system is learning ‘as we go’ with this new virus. Care homes have had to close their doors to visitors, which can be distressing for residents and their families, while shielding at home can lead to social isolation. Patients are being discharged from hospital more rapidly than usual and there are staff shortages, due to self isolation and the stress and emotional strain being put on carers. According to LaingBuisson, as of 15 April 2020, an estimated 12% of care home front line staff were unavailable for work. Care facilities are having to rapidly adapt existing practices, causing disruption within homes and agencies. It is a very complex combination of conditions to navigate while prioritising the best interests of the individual.
At Grace Consulting, we are reassured that in most cases our clients with care in place are managing well. When Grace Care Advisers call to check how they are managing, they rarely express concern about the current situation, just gratitude for the dedication of their carers. For example, carers in care homes are making great efforts to take phones to people and to help with tablet video calls (not always with total success!). Some are sending regular photographs to families. Each kind intervention helps to keep families in contact and reduce anxiety.
Is Covid-19 changing the way families discuss care in later life?
These unprecedented times have brought to the fore the benefits of planning for later life. There has inevitably been an increase in the need for rapid decision making where people have been taken urgently to hospital due to sudden illness and where families have been unable to visit due to social distancing and restrictions on movement of people.
Additionally, we have witnessed a more acute focus on mortality across the population. This has brought about an openness to discuss, plan, and increase propensity to engage in conversations about later life care between family and loved ones. We hope that once the pandemic is over, and we can meet up again with our family and loved ones, we will continue to see the benefits of this. Financial advisers and independent care advisers can help facilitate these conversations and make sure that funds are in place to help realise these plans if the time comes.
“The area of later life planning will only increase in interest as there is a huge planning gap around inter-generational (or “wealth transfer”) planning and this therefore presents a big opportunity to access potential beneficiaries through demonstrating sound financial planning and the value of clear, knowledgeable and independent advice. This is why Ingenious in conjunction with other specialists in the area like the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) and independent care consulting firm, Grace Consulting, run educational sessions for advisers to both increase their awareness of the issues across the area and fully understand the opportunity it provides advisers.” (Simon Harryman, Senior Business Development Director at Ingenious.)
Has the pandemic stimulated positive change?
Yes. This pandemic has shone a light on the importance of the care sector and its incredible work. An increased awareness of the hugely valuable and onerous role carers play has garnered new respect for the sector. Services have ramped up in an extraordinarily short time period as the Government has been forced to fast-track initiatives that have been on the agenda for some time. This has provided us with the tools we require to continue to meet our clients’ needs. We have been able to offer advice based on new and fast-changing guidelines and maintain open lines of communications with care facilities so families can continue to monitor the care provision of loved ones. We have worked with various agencies and government bodies to accommodate demand for temporary care after hospital discharge as well as working with individuals to plan for longer-term solutions. All this has been enabled by a streamlined communication between health and social care bodies.
What can we learn from this pandemic about planning for later life care?
This experience should encourage people to start planning for care earlier than before, to put contingency plans in place and where necessary consider setting up powers of attorney, not just for finance, but also for health and welfare. This gives individuals the control over decisions that may be made for them in an emergency and loved ones the confidence that they are doing the right thing by the individual.
We have also seen the incredible support technology can give in times of emergency or isolation. We encourage every family to set up smart phones and tablets that can enable them to continue communicating with loved ones – something we are no doubt all benefiting from at the moment.
Richard and Maggie’s story
Over the last month, families have found a huge amount of support in the Ingenious Care Service, a complimentary part of Ingenious Estate Planning that offers bespoke, independent care advice.
We were recently told of a case where a man suddenly suffered a stroke at the age of 75.
Richard was fit and healthy until the stroke left him with long-lasting damage, including the loss of use of his left arm and difficulties with his speech and swallowing. His wife, Maggie, has not been able to see him in hospital and their children are unable to visit to support her because she is in self-isolation.
Maggie was told that beyond Richard’s hospital stay, his care needs would be complex, and his rehabilitation would require professional care. Richard would be discharged in the coming days and so a plan for his care was urgently required. Though initially overwhelmed, Maggie was able to make use of Richard’s Ingenious Care Service access, to quickly make sense of the situation.
Working with her dedicated care adviser who has a background in nursing, Maggie was immediately listened to and the pressure of the situation was understood. A clear action plan was set out very quickly, with Richard contributing via technology to express his opinion. They discussed:
- Richard’s care needs and personal wishes
- Maximising his rehabilitation with appropriate care and physiotherapy
- The most suitable care options – in a care home or at home with appropriate adaptations, equipment and care
- Details of the availability and cost of care
- Available funding and state benefits
The care adviser carried out bespoke research into high quality, local care homes that could be suitable for Richard and his rehabilitation. She has also provided an option of a home-care plan, with required equipment and details of suitable home care providers. They discussed the cost of these options so Richard and Maggie could plan further.
Maggie shared her feedback with the Ingenious Care Service, telling us that her and Richard’s experience changed overnight with the provision of professional advice. The value of being listened to and spending the time to thoroughly consider their options has allowed them the confidence that Richard is receiving the best possible care at a time when there is immense pressure on the system.
At Ingenious, we believe that preparing for changing circumstances is a cornerstone of sound financial planning – especially when it comes to protecting the legacy your clients are creating for their loved ones.
The Ingenious Care service is available across all the Ingenious Estate Planning (IEP) services
Through investments in unlisted real estate, infrastructure and media businesses, IEP has a strong track record in achieving a steady, long-term return, with low volatility and a low correlation to stock markets. The portfolio is less sensitive to short-term economic shocks and market sentiment than listed assets can be.
Ingenious Care services became a cost-free part of Ingenious Estate Planning in October 2019. There has since been a significant uptake from investors choosing it as part of their later life planning. Some have used the service to make financial allowances for potential future care needs, and others have actively used the guidance of the service to consider care plans for themselves or a family member.