Can an elderly person be forced into a care home?

As our parents get older, it is important to start considering the options available with regard to elderly care. It is a good idea to know what a person’s rights are so that the family can plan ahead, ensuring that your parents’ wishes for their future are met. It is wise to do this before anything happens that may mean the ability to choose is taken out of their hands and your hands. 

Clearly this is not an easy conversation to have with older people who are still perfectly able to look after themselves. It can be even harder if they are in denial about their declining ability to cope on their own.

Statistics indicate that in older people, around 2 in every 100 will develop dementia and that here in the UK, someone will have a stroke every 5 minutes. It makes sense, therefore, to think about planning for your future early because both of these are reasons why an older person may not be able to choose the type of care that they would want. Planning ahead means deciding the best type of future before anything happens that might compromise a person’s ability to make those decisions. 

Many elderly people worry about being forced into a care home, often against their will. Whilst this is something that can be particularly worrying, it is important to learn about personal rights. This is particularly important if you believe that social services may press for a move into a care home. Live-in care or professional home care are good alternatives that social services and your local authority should consider, that can cost less than a care home, depending on location. 

Can an individual be forced into a care home?

The answer to this question is that in the UK, generally, no one can be forced into moving into a care home. If you are in possession of your mental faculties, regardless of whether you are deemed able to take care of yourself or not, you can arrange for professional care in your own home, even if the recommendation from social services is for a care home. 

If someone wants to be cared for in their own home by a professional carer, then there is no reason for there to be any conflict between family, social workers and friends. In fact, emotional well-being and health outcomes are superior when cared for at home. If you are strongly against the idea of living in a residential care home in later life, then there is an alternative. Home care provides a great alternative to a care home where you can remain in your own home but still receive professional care. For those with greater care needs, 24/7 live-in care can also be provided in a person’s own home.

Social Services do have a duty of care to all individuals, and they will need to assess your needs to ensure that the services received by an older adult are suitable. If care requirements are not being met by the services received in the home, then Social Services may need to intervene and place a person in an alternative environment where they feel that those needs will be met. They will, however, only do this when they believe that it is the safest option for the person involved. Sometimes this may also be for the safety of those around the person, for example, in the case of someone who has become violent towards others as a result of dementia. 

With the right level of care, most care needs can be met in the home by a professional home carer or live-in carer, including those situations where the person has dementia.

Live-in care – a first option 

It is recommended by Social Services that those who are concerned about the well-being of their elderly relative speak to them about these concerns. In the first instance, they will normally arrange for a care assessment to be undertaken and if the elderly person has a preference to remain in their own home, then a carer can be arranged who will visit the home at regular intervals to help them with their care needs. 

For those who may need a little more help than regular visits, live-in care is another option. This involves a professional carer living in the elderly person’s home to assist with greater care needs. If Social Services are involved, this option can be discussed with them, but it is also possible to arrange this privately if you already know you will have to pay for your own care.

Live-in care is tailored to the needs of the individual and provides help with those tasks that they might otherwise struggle with. It also provides companionship, and this form of 1-2-1 contact can be very beneficial for both mental and physical health. 

The Obligations of Social Services

There are certain obligations that fall upon Social Services when it comes to the care of an elderly person. The local authority can only move an individual against their wishes, or those of their family, into a care home under these circumstances:

  • When care needs are not being met in the home
  • When the elderly person poses a risk to the safety of any other people who might live in their home
  • When the person is not capable of making an informed decision about their own care

A local authority is, however, legally required to follow the appropriate guidance that permits an elderly person to have a proper choice over where they might live. Decisions that are taken need to be in a person’s best interests and must look at all of the available options to achieve the best outcome for them. When there is an issue of mental incapacity, the local authority is required to complete a mental capacity assessment. 

For those self-funding elderly care, it makes sense to be prepared financially. The type of financial planning you need to consider will allow you to protect the future and make sure that there is money available for the type of care that you would like. It also allows you to make your wishes clear so that a trusted family member knows what you want regarding your care needs. 

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