What To Look For In A Carehome Search
Later life and elderly care is one of the most hottest topics currently both in the media and on family’s minds. Property consultant Alex Goldstein talks with carehome finder specialist Fiona Gilbert on the pitfalls to avoid when searching for a carehome for your relative, what you need to do and how to go about it. A highly insightful and educational discussion
What To Look For In A Carehome Search
Full transcript below:
Alex: Fiona sort of tell everyone a bit about the business and your involvement.
Fiona: I’ve been involved in the property sector now for over 35 years and more recently since about 1995, I’ve been involved with the elderly care home sector. And a few years ago, my husband’s mother needed to go into a care home and we found it very difficult to find the right place for her but at least we had the experience and we knew what sort of questions to ask. What we’re finding now is that fewer people have that experience and it’s a very daunting prospect, if you’re looking for a care home for a elderly relative perhaps or just a parent, so we felt that there was a gap in the market there and people needed help.
Alex: I really think they do, even more so at a time when they really need some handholding and I think everyone is sort of aware this is a growing concern. We’ve got a aging population, I mean is that sort of a fair comment?
Fiona: Absolutely, I think people are living longer, they’re generally healthier as they get older but then we found out this week that over 200,000 people per year are diagnosed with dementia and its probably that stage where a lot of elderly people feel they can’t cope at home, even with carers coming in.
Alex: And how do you go about the process because obviously if you’re living at the other end of the country to your relative and they’re looking at possibly contemplating going into care, what can you actually do because I think this is actually a really important point because I don’t know anyone else that does what you do.
Fiona: We help people who maybe have the long distances to cover because it’s very time consuming if you’re looking for a care home for somebody who’s at the other end of the country or even overseas. A lot of our clients have children who are abroad and so its very difficult, it’s costly, they’ve got to come over to the particular region they’re looking for the care home, they need their hands holding really and we can do that research for them, we can provide reports for them, we can take the relative into a care home to have a look round when they might not be available to do so.
Alex: How does this sort of all work into fees? I mean everyone sort of talks about care homes and costs involved. What does it actually equate to in sort of real terms and how do you look at financing of it if that’s an option?
Fiona: Well the vast majority of people will be self-funding because they’ll probably have assets in excess of £23,250 which is the current threshold. So, if they own a house then obviously they’re going to have to self-fund their care. The care home fee rates are going up all the time. The average is probably around the £600-700 per week and that can go up depending on what type of care is required to £1,200 a week if they’re needing nursing care and potential dementia care. And it does vary around the country, down south around London you could be talking over £2,000 a week.
Alex: I mean that’s some serious expenditure and I guess on the back of that, are you able to provide financial and legal advice or do you know the right people, how does that side of things work?
Fiona: We know the right people to signpost our clients in their direction, so we have a panel of reputable IFA’s and solicitors who specialise in the elderly care sector.
Alex: Great, so ok it’s all part of the service of holding the clients hand. I personally don’t know of anyone else, is there anyone else out there that offers this sort of service? I can’t believe that there is.
Fiona: There aren’t any in the Yorkshire area that I’m aware of. There are one or two people that do a similar sort of service elsewhere around the country, they’re quite difficult to find. We offer a national service to shortlist and analyse care homes all around the UK and carry out research and it’s up-to-date and it’s unbiased. You’ll find that a lot of websites actually take advertising from the care homes so inevitably those care homes are going to feature closer to the top of their recommendation list. We don’t recommend we just provide the information for people to make an educated decision.
Alex: I’m assuming if you’ve got a specialist requirement, onset dementia to name one of them, I guess there are specific types of care homes that one should and should not look at, and you’re able to sort of guide people and differentiate between the pros and cons of that.
Fiona: Yes, in the main you’ve got residential care, you’ve got nursing care and then you’ve got both of those with dementia as well. There might be other homes that offer facilities for people with Parkinson’s disease or other requirements to that person, so we can make sure that the homes that we look at and shortlist for the clients are relevant to their particular needs.
Alex: And you’re able to help with I’m assuming again access to these. I know there’s sometimes waiting lists for some of the better ones, is that something you can work on that side or is it providing the information, how does that work?
Fiona: Because we are familiar with the system we can very often speed the process up, which means that obviously if there are waiting lists, then we don’t jump the queue but obviously we can perhaps pull a few strings in the right area. And the other aspect that we can help people with is to potentially negotiate a reduction in the fee rates because they’re not always set in stone.
Alex: That’s a very valid point, I thought it was a set rate, most people assume that it is what it is. I didn’t appreciate that it was a game like buying a house and you can negotiate. I thought it was a set thing.
Fiona: No, if you know how to negotiate as we do then you can save quite a lot of money and you know when you’re talking about £1,000 or there abouts it’s good even if you can get 5% off.
Alex: It makes all the difference on that sort of scale. Obviously, I’m assuming that’s one of the pitfalls but what are the other sort of possible areas that you need to be mindful of when looking at a care home?
Fiona: Well a little bit like yourself when you’re looking for properties and you see the glossy brochures, you know what to look for behind the scenes and care homes in the main have lovely glossy brochures with happy smiling faces but behind the scenes there could be all sorts of things hidden and we know what to look for. We also when we go round the homes we actually see how the carers engage with the clients, it’s not just about the surroundings, you know you might have a beautiful home with a nice large bedroom with a lovely en suite, but you might find there are elderly people dotted around with no engagement with the staff at all and leads to depression and ill health.
Alex: And that’s the error that always get into the news and as you said it’s looking beyond that glossy brochure as on my side with property and seeing what’s happening behind the scenes. Obviously very very similar that you’re under a lot of pressure because obviously you’re trying to source the right care home and sometimes you come across as quite blinkered in your approach, you always need a third party like yourself to see through all of that and guide you in the right direction.
Fiona: I mean the Care Quality Commission provide reports but sometimes they might only happen once a year and things change. So, because our information is bang up to date then we know that home on that particular day might be better or worse than it appeared in the report.
Alex: Absolutely, and I suppose the obvious question is how much your services cost?
Fiona: We have a free service initially for the shortlisting of up to 30 care homes or nursing homes in a specific area. Thereafter it’s really now a question of bespoke service but put it this way it’s actually a lot cheaper than the weekly fees.