There are approximately 430,000 people living in care homes in the UK but for anyone speaking to the relevant statutory bodies at the time of entering care, you could be forgiven for thinking you are the only one.

The fragmented nature of the care system and the benefits system mean that you are rarely provided with correct, consolidated advice regarding your rights and options.

We are regularly approached by clients who are left confused by the system but with a strong feeling that they are missing out on something. The following is a list of the five most common mistakes which we come across and if you feel that you may have made any of these mistakes then please do get in touch with us and we will be happy to assist you:

1. The self funding assumption

This is the single biggest misconception when passing into permanent residential care. Sadly this not helped by the manner in which many NHS bodies and local authorities approach the question of funding. Time and again we see clients paying for care when they should not be. At a cost of perhaps £40,000-50,000 per annum this is a costly mistake. Often we find that the first question asked by the state is whether you have assets over £23,250 and, if the answer is yes, that is the end of their interest in you. The question of whether you have assets should be the last question, not the first. The first questions should be why do you need residential care, what are the nature of your needs and how are those needs going to be met? It may be that your needs are such that you would qualify for non-means tested funding but unless your needs are properly considered you will not gain access to these valuable funding schemes.

2. Failure to research placements

Moving into residential care, whether permanent or temporary, is a big step and getting the choice of home right is very important. Choosing the right or wrong placement can have a marked impact on your quality of life so it is a worth undertaking research. Subsequent moves are disruptive to your care regime and, for dementia sufferers in particular, multiple changes to location and routine can be very damaging. Sadly the selection process is often undertaken under duress because there is an urgent need to arrange discharge from hospital and this can lead to factors such as cost and availability leading the selection criteria. Consequently this may be at the expense of factors such as geographical location, aesthetic properties of the facility, the range of services and the quality of care staff, which may well be more important to you.

3. Care contracts

A contract for care services may be one of the most expensive contracts you ever sign and yet very few people seek legal advice before signing them.  As solicitors we deal with contracts for many different goods and services in a variety of sectors.  We are constantly surprised by just how poor many of these contracts are and we strongly recommend you get independent legal advice before signing.

The difficulties within care contracts are substantial and beyond the scope of this note but key issues include; the parties to the contract, guarantees, notice periods, deposits, rights to change rooms, right to increase rates and the services contracted for.

4. Top ups

A top up fee may be requested by the local authority where they are not willing to pay the full cost of a chosen care home. It is a legally binding agreement with significant financial implications and we strongly recommend you obtain independent legal advice before signing any such agreement. We have seen many examples of local authorities making inappropriate requests for such agreements.

5. Failure to plan LPA & Will

Early planning with Wills and LPAs is beneficial as this can provide the opportunity to reduce future costs, protect assets and ensure the right people are making decisions for you. If these are not in order before you pass into care then, if you are still able to do so, you should ensure they are checked and updated where necessary. Having the right people fighting your corner as attorney(s) can make all the difference and is key to avoiding all of the above mistakes!