James Bryant, a frail 89-year-old, suffering from Alzheimer's, has been thrown out of his care home in Stevenage. James' daughters have refused to pay a £17,000 care bill - which they and the council agree is not fair.
James, who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII, moved into Roebuck Nursing Home in 2011, when his Alzheimer's became so severe that his wife and daughters could no longer care for him.
The Sunday Times reported that at that point, his wife Evelyn was living in their marital home, which means that the property did not count as part of James' assets - so they fell below the minimum threshold of £23,250. Hertfordshire County Council agreed to cover the bulk of the cost of care (at a reduced rate of £550 instead of the full private rate of £880 a week). James contributed to that from his private pension.
However, when Evelyn died at the end of 2013, half of the property was left to her two daughters, and half passed to James. This took him over the threshold, and made him liable for the cost of his own care.
The Daily Mail highlighted that the family is not arguing with this. The source of the row is that when the property was sold at the end of May last year (17 months after Evelyn's death), James moved onto the standard weekly rate of £880. However, the nursing home argued that this higher rate should have been payable from the day Evelyn died in 2013.
The row has rumbled on ever since. On February 18th, they were given four weeks to find James a new home. The frail 89-year-old has now been moved. The Express reported that the care home owners planned to take the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Paying for care
This horrible story highlights not only how complicated the system is, and how difficult it is to navigate, but also the hideous cost of care.
According to Citizens Advice, the typical nursing home fee in 2015 was £40,248 a year - up £1,872 from a year earlier. Less intensive care homes charged an average of £29,588 - up £572.
The current system means that local authorities will pay the whole bill if you have assets and savings of less than £14,250, and will pay a proportion of the cost of you have savings and assets under £23,250. The family home is considered part of those assets - unless your spouse is still living at home.
Each year around 135,000 people are admitted into care, and over the next 12 months, 62,000 families will have to pay for it. The Department of Health says that this triggers over 35,000 emergency property sales every year - in some cases families are forced to cut the asking price by as much as 25% - because the bills start to pile up and they need a quick sale.
It means that while nobody thinks about the possibility of needing care in their old age, it is important to talk to your family about the best approach, and how you will pay for it, before the need arises - so you're not left facing difficult decisions at an impossible time.