By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Thousands of elderly people who have sold their homes to pay for their care could get refunds after one family got back £50,000.
Long term care can prove very expensive for many people
Mike Pearce had funded his mother's care for more than three years before the ombudsman asked Torbay care trust to review the case.
Now the Alzheimer's Society has called for a national debate on who pays for the care of elderly people.
It says Mr Pearce's case could give hope to others and help bring about a
change in policy.
Mr Pearce told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme about his long battle.
"They've reimbursed the last three and a half years' fees," he said.
"We went to appeal, then I took it to the ombudsman, I waited 15 months for the ombudsman to send it back to Torbay and they used a new national framework that is still out to consultation, but I thought it was clearer and I would get a better result."
Andrew Chidgey of the Alzheimer's Society says the case could give hope to thousands of others.
"We know that lots of health care trusts are failing to provide health care for people they should be providing it for," he said.
"As more cases like Mike and his mum's come through it should ensure a change in policy. There needs to be consistency in the rules that are being used."
But despite Mr Pearce's success he says the new draft guidelines do not go far enough: "I don't want to see the guidelines adopted as they are, I want to get them right first.
"We want far more emphasis on the importance of considering mental health conditions.
"There should also be a national government-backed debate about who pays for care that's the only way we can begin to unravel this inequitable system."
At the moment people in care homes should get the fees paid for by the NHS if they principally have a medical need.
But many health care trusts pass them over to the local council social services.
They apply a means-test and that is why Mr Pearce, like thousands of others, felt he had to sell his mother's home to pay the fees.
He said he pursued the case because it was right.
"If she was terminally ill with heart disease or cancer she would be in a hospice or hospital," he said.
"I don't think that a person terminally ill with a degenerative mental disability should pay for their own keep.
"And basically it is the law of this country that the NHS should provide that service."
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 6 January 2007 at 1204 GMT.
The programme will be repeated on Sunday, 7 January at 1502 GMT.