It’s natural to want to live independently for as along as possible. Yet at some point, because of an illness or health condition, you may have care needs to consider. This may require having extra help in your own home, in which case you should investigate home care services — plus any help from your local authority to have your home adapted.

“Local authorities are required to carry out an assessment if they think you have a need for care and they are not allowed to take into account how much money you have”

Sonia Sodha, Head of Public Services and Consumer Rights Policy at Which?, says the trick is to plan ahead. Adaptations, for example, could help you stay in your own home for longer. “It means that you may be able to prevent falls,” she says, “which could result in hospitalisation.  And that could be the trigger for having to move into a care home.”

Because of a condition or simply a desire for a lifestyle change, you may need to leave your own home and move into some form of senior housing. There are different types available: sheltered housing is designed to help people live independently, knowing that help is at hand if they need it. Then there are care homes that offer residents help with personal care (washing, meals, etc) or nursing care if you have a long-term health condition. Plus, there are specialist homes for people with conditions such as dementia.

Level of need

To work out the best option for you may mean having a needs or community care assessment from your local authority. “It’s important to say that local authorities are required to carry out an assessment if they think you have a need for care,” says Sodha, “and they are not allowed to take into account how much money you have. That’s a common misconception. It’s something we would recommend doing, because it will consider your physical and mental health and general well-being, assess your level of need and help you think about the type of care that might be appropriate for you.”

Financial support is determined separately by a means test. If you have assets above the threshold of £23,250, you will be liable for your own care. The Which? website offers advice and information in this area, including tips on seeking out senior housing options. “You should always, of course, make a visit,"  says Sodha. “If possible you should then make a second unannounced visit with a relative. Some care homes will even allow you to arrange a trial period — so there are things you can do to ensure that you will receive the best possible care.”