When Diana Pettifer’s dad fell ill, she realised she needed to find him residential home. But as she found out, the task was not an easy one. Dan Parton reports.

This article includes:

  • Moving dad to a care home
  • Finding a care home
  • NHS continuing healthcare

Moving dad to a care home

Diana Pettifer and her sister are close, despite living many miles apart. But one issue put their relationship under severe strain – whether or not to move their 93-year-old dad into residential care.

Indeed, Diana admits they had several heated arguments about it. “My sister felt that I wanted to put him away, which wasn’t the case at all,” she says. “But I think we were both reacting to the stress of the situation.”

Diana, who managed her dad’s care package and also did some caring herself, was convinced that his needs were such – prostate cancer, a weak heart from two heart failures, arthritis and the early stages of dementia – that residential care was the best option for him.

Eventually, after “a lot of soul searching” Diana convinced her sister that her dad needed to move into residential care.

But while the sisters came to an agreement, one person remained resolutely opposed to the idea – their dad. “He was adamant that he didn’t want to do this,” Diana says.

Nevertheless, she managed to persuade him to go for a fortnight respite care in a residential home near to his own house in Bicester. But he soon made it clear to his daughters that he didn’t like living in the care home, and spent the two weeks he was there asking when he was returning home.

When he arrived home, however, he had a change of heart, which surprised his daughters. “Within a couple of days he was saying ‘I think I should have stayed there’,” Diana recalls. “He came to understand that because of his problems.”

Back home he missed the company and the extra confidence and mobility respite care had given him. He also had a few falls, which made him realise that 24-hour care in a residential home was the safer option. For Diana, it would also mean peace of mind – and a peaceful night’s sleep: “He had a few falls in the night and I was called out at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Finding a care home

Eventually, all 3 decided that to ensure peace of mind, a care home was the best option. The next step was to find one and Diana set about looking for a home in the local press and on the internet.  Some homes were discounted quickly. “We did look at a couple, but they were dim and smelt – that terrible old people’s home smell,” Diana says.

Diana settled on a home in Bletchingdon, near Bicester: “The staff are very kind and welcoming. I always get greeted by my first name and I’m always offered a cup of tea.

If I want dad to move into his room so I can talk to him in private, they do that. He is clean and cared for, has his hair cut, it is a good standard.”

But while this relieved Diana of her caring responsibilities, it presented a new problem – paying his fees.

The home is at the higher end of the residential care market, with fees of up to £800 per week. Diana initially paid for her dad’s upkeep from his occupational and state pensions, topping up the shortfall with his savings. But the shortfall was significant and his savings quickly disappeared.

Diana successfully applied for benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, but even with that there was still a shortfall of about £400 a week that had to be paid out of her dad’s savings.

At this point, Diana believed the only option was to sell his flat and she reluctantly put it onto the market.

NHS continuing healthcare

Meanwhile, her sister discovered their dad was eligible for NHS continuing healthcare funding, which would cover the cost of his care.

Continuing healthcare is provided by the NHS to meet physical or mental health needs that have arisen as a result of disability, an accident or illness, whether the person is in hospital, a nursing home, hospice or their own home.

But getting continuing healthcare was not easy. Diana admits the application process was “an absolute nightmare” of bureaucracy. In addition, she had the stress of having to go to a tribunal to receive the full funding.

“My sister is an experienced solicitor and put hours into it,” Diana says. “It is an absolute minefield. A person without expertise, even people like myself – I was a headteacher until I retired, so I’m used to bureaucracy and paperwork – I didn’t think I’d get it. So an average person has no chance.”

Continuing healthcare funding has ensured that Diana no longer has to use her father’s savings or sell his flat to pay for his care. But she believes there are many more people that are still using their own resources despite eligibility for continuing healthcare.

“The person who runs the home says if dad is eligible for it, so should 70% of the people who are there. But they haven’t got professional expertise to fight their corner. It really is an absolute scandal.”