Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Home truths about old age

People seem to be up in arms about the elderly having to sell their homes to pay for care.  “Selling your home” is not necessarily a scandal – but a proper way to provide for your care.  The key exception would seem to be if you have a partner who needs to continue to live in that home.  The fact that the home is “the children’s inheritance” is irrelevant.  To suggest that the state should subsidise the “children’s inheritance” of the well-off would be scandalous.

The “scandal” has to be that some have to pay and others don’t. The trick would seem to be to live the life of Riley and don’t save for your old age. I think it’s called “moral hazard”. But can you rely on the current situation continuing – will you (in poverty in 20 years time) find that the state will pick up your care costs – perhaps you should put something aside “just in case”?

The problem would seem to be that the NHS looks after your health needs (free at the point of use) until you become “too difficult” – then you are ejected into the private “residential care system” where you are a naive purchaser probably buying the second most expensive purchase (after your home) of your life.  Often the decision is made by a child of the person concerned – fully aware that they are losing their inheritance.

Sometimes the NHS pays the “nursing element” – but the criteria are tight – initially my mother (cancer, consequent incontinence, consequent immobility – “move with slings only” and dementia) did not qualify. But because this nursing cannot be given (with any dignity) in “the home setting” (without enormous expense to provide “care on call”) you have to move into a home and pay the home fees – because of your ill-health.  Some illnesses do not “disable you”, some do – and that lottery decides the destination of your children’s inheritance.  If your illness does not disable you, they get it, if your illness does disable you, the owners of private care homes get it.  Such lotteries rarely seem to be fair.

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