Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Monday, 8 November 2010
BBC Living Longer campaign: London stories

The BBC's Living Longer project, 7-12 November, examines the implications of a society that is living longer - the benefits and challenges.

By 2031 a quarter of the population will be over 65 and 1.7 million will have care needs. How will we pay for it all?

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley predicts "that one in five 65-year-olds today will need care costing more than £50,000, which could force many to sell family homes".

Laurine Cohen

This is the reality for 66-year-old Laurine Cohen who has elderly parents, Frank and Ann Wise, needing care.

Laurine and her sister face having to help fund their parents' care by selling their home.

Frank and Ann Wise

Until May, Frank, 95, and Ann, 88, had lived in warden-assisted accommodation in Waltham Forest for four years.

Mrs Cohen said: "My father's health gradually failed and they needed extra care so we found a residential care home that provided dementia care. Everyone is very sensitive to my father's needs. My mum just needs a little bit of help with her personal care which is done at the care home.

"It's an expensive exercise. The care is costing £1,200 per week. My parents' finances are such that they have dropped below £23,000 each so now we are hoping that the local council, which is Waltham Forest, is going to pick up that amount of money."

Under the current system if someone's capital is less than £23,250, but weekly income is more than care home fees and the Personal Expenses Allowance added together, they will have to pay all of the fees, as long as they can realistically find a care home within that income level.

Mrs Cohen said: "There is a deficit which the council would look for a third party to top up. Presumably that would be the family."

'Very unfair'

She said this was proving a problem for her and her sister. Mrs Cohen is a widow of three years and her sister is divorced. Both women have to work to support themselves.

"Before we moved my parents in May they were living in warden-assisted accommodation - a one bedroom flat - which we had bought.

"The property is on the market but because things are very slow in the housing market at the moment we haven't had any interest. Our hope is that if we could sell that property, that could go a long way to helping us to top up the fees the council will hopefully pay."

Mrs Cohen said she felt very strongly that the situation her family finds itself in was unfair. Mr Wise ran a market stall until he retired at 78.

"My parents worked their entire lives and never, ever asked for a penny from anyone.

"The hope was we would have our parent's home as our legacy when they passed away and to feel everything is now being depleted because they are expected to pay for their care - I feel it is very, very unfair."

Arvinder Patel

Arvinder Patel helps her elderly mum manage her personal budget and shop online via the shop4support service for care and services which is offered by Harrow Council.

Mrs Patel was unhappy with the traditional care system where carers were booked by the council. Now, she says the personalised care system is working for her.

Arvinder Patel (r) with her mother

"With this system we have such piece of mind. We know she is safe when we are out at work. There's continuity and it's a familiar face for mum.

"Before, they used come and even if she was fast asleep they would wake her up because it was "their slot". Now mum has a choice - without a personal budget we wouldn't be able to care for mum as we do now."

Harrow Council launched an 'Amazon-style' website where residents who receive care can shop online for support and leisure services.

Residents can shop for services or equipment using their personal budget - a sum of money provided by the council for them to spend to meet their social care needs.

The scheme won the NHS Health and Social Care Award for 'Supporting Independence' on 3 November.

Looking after loved-ones

BBC London 94.9's Lainy Malkani spoke to one 64-year-old woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, who talked about suffering from multiple sclerosis while caring for her husband who has advanced Parkinson's Disease.

"I am very reliant on some wonderful carers. I couldn't do it without them. They do the dirty heavy stuff but it's true I'm left with 68 hours that I do myself.

"The choice we were given by the NHS was to put my husband in a nursing home but he thought that way lies death - you don't come out of a nursing home alive.

"I would rather he was as "happy" as possible in whatever years he's got left with his DVDs, belongings and music around him."

Claire Howard

Fifty-seven year old Claire Howard has been looking for a job in London for three years. In that time she's had only one interview.

Claire Howard, 57, who has been looking for a job for three years

"I was a Further Education teacher of general studies and life skills but I don't have a formal teaching qualification because when I started teaching you didn't need one.

"To retrain would take me over the 16 hour rule which if you're on a Jobseeker's Allowance you must be available for work. So, if you do a full-time course, which a PGCE would be, then you lose your allowance and you lose your housing benefit and therefore lose your home.

"You'd have to take out a student loan and function that way. I'm not prepared to do that at 57. There's certainly no guarantee of a job after that."

Claire spent 20 years in Spain and moved back to be nearer her daughter, who is studying in London.

"I would never have left Spain if I had known what it would be like. I would have stayed put and tightened my belt.

"I feel old before my time, that I'm useless, whereas I think I was quite a good teacher and I would very much enjoying being involved in education again.

"There needs to be more specialised help for the over 50s."

Living Longer stories will be featured throughout the week on BBC London 94.9's Breakfast Show with Gaby and Paul.

Living Longer

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific