Don’t dump your future in the hands of others

“There’s no point saving for my old age – if I need to go into a home, and I have no money, the council will cover the fees, so why should I?”

It’s amazing how often I hear this and frightening how few people have considered the consequences of this short sighted view.

Let’s consider…

When we don’t take responsibility for ourselves can we really expect everyone else to take on what we are shirking?  By not looking after ourselves we become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

We live in a world where the population is aging – what would happen if we all decided to leave it to others to fund our old age? Would there be enough willing people around to mop up after us, to feed us, to ensure the roof over our head was secure?

Would there be enough taxes to pay for this care? We may think we’re being clever and getting something for nothing, but the adage that there is “no such thing as a free lunch” is as true for culinary delights as it is for care homes.

Over a million elderly people enter care homes each year. On average the fees are in excess of £20,000 per annum per person.

What happens if more people need that care but less people are willing to pay for it? What happens to us and what happens to the tax system?

But it’s not just about the ethics of dumping your responsibilities on others without a thought for the consequences, it’s also about your own quality of life.

About 6 years ago my grandmother needed to move into full time residential care. She had been living in sheltered accommodation but this was no longer appropriate as her health deteriorated. So I was tasked with finding her a suitable place to live. I visited many homes in the local area. It was a sobering experience.

At the cheaper end of the scale, which at the time was about £480 per week, the homes were depressing. The decor was tatty and dismal. The food resurrected memories of the worst school dinners. An average day consisted of get up, have breakfast, sit around, have a cup of tea, sit around, have lunch, sit around, have a cup of tea and a biscuit, sit around, have supper, sit around, go to bed.  If your hearing or eyesight was up to it you could add in a bit TV to break the monotony. The place smelt stale – or worse.

Would you wish this on someone you cared deeply about? I certainly wouldn’t.

Would the council house you here if you had no money to choose for yourself. Yes, it was the cheapest option.

These homes held a mixture of private and council funded residents.

At the other end of the scale was a beautiful residential home charging £790 per week. For your extra £310 the difference was breathtaking.

Set in landscaped grounds, with bright cheerful decor, hinting at a luxury hotel, this home offered a choice of meals at each sitting. Special meal requests were also catered for. One elderly gentleman liked to have a prawn sandwich and pint of Guinness for his Sunday lunch – and each week, as requested, that is what he was served.

An entertainments officer was employed – their sole duty to arrange activities for the residents and to play card or board games with them. Most residents didn’t have time for TV – there were far more interesting activities to join, including day trips, sing-a-longs and mini theatre productions.

The atmosphere was more akin to a hotel than a home. Yes, there were nurses and yes, some residents required daily medical help, but this was a far more pleasant experience, tailored to the needs of the people living there. I quite fancied it myself – it looked fun!

Needless to say this was the home I chose for my Grandma.

I know it’s expensive – but if that’s what it takes to give someone you love a decent life, then in my opinion its worth paying. But suppose you had no choice? Suppose you had to go with the smelly, dreary and tedious cheaper home? Is that really where you want to end up? If you decide to abdicate responsibility for your future and leave it hands of “society” – then you give-away your right to a choice. If you aren’t prepared to take responsibility for yourself – why should anyone else?

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