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Planning Retirement Online

Guide to living with ill health in later life

Part 6 - Support

This section covers where you can get help with the practical and financial aspects connected with being ill. NHS and Local Authorities have different responsibilities for care but in practice there will likely be a multi-discipline approach across a range of services.

Staying at Home: help to stay put

Both the NHS and your Local Authority have a responsibility to help you to stay put when your health declines.

Guide to Ill Health - links

1. NHS and Telecare

The NHS is committed to using telecare and telehealth services for people with long-term conditions. Telehealth monitoring equipment enables people with complex conditions to stay at home, avoid hospital stays, but still stay in touch with their GP or other health professional. The NHS has published a patient information leaflet on telehealth services which you can access through the NHS Choices website. NHS telecare is free.

2. Intermediate care

If you have been in hospital, and your care is deemed to be intermediate or “reablement”, care can be provided free either at home or in a residential care environment. This is usually following an illness or decline in health and the stay is to avoid having to go into hospital. This can be put in place for up to 6 weeks. Your GP or health support worker will arrange this. Of course you may prefer to make your own alternative arrangements if you have health insurance or are privately funded.

3. Local Authority Needs Assessment

Nurse and senior lady chattingIf you are having difficulty coping with your daily activities at home, you can ask your local authority social services department (often known as adult services) to carry out a care (or needs) assessment. LAs have a duty to undertake an assessment even if you will not qualify financially. It is worth noting:

  • The assessment will make recommendations on the care services, aids and equipment and adjustments necessary to keep you safe and healthy at home.
  • Some of these are free but many can only be provided through social services if you are below an income and capital limit.
  • Even if you qualify financially you may not get help with day to day tasks, shopping or housework. With limited budgets, LA’s are now only providing for those at risk.
  • It is still worth getting an assessment to find out what kind of aids and adjustments might help, which you can get free, and to ensure you are getting all the medical help you need.
  • Sometimes you might be entitled to a grant for a very basic product and you can top up to get exactly what you want.
  • They can often advise on other grants or charitable trusts that can help.
  • They will also be up to date on community groups in your area who can help with transport, or run social events.
  • If you don’t qualify financially and decide to pay privately for help, they will have a list of care agencies that you can use and their prices. They will not make direct recommendations but careful questioning can reveal a lot.
  • They will have other support services such as Care and Repair (see repairs and adaptations below) that you can use.

You can find out how to apply here or get in touch with your Social Services (Adult Services) Department.

Paying for care (at home and in care home)

See the Guide to Care Home funding for the current financial assessment. The means tested limit for 2016/17 is £23,250.

For information on self funding care click here.

Ill-Health and Disability Benefits

Check the  site for carers and disability benefits. Personal Independence Payment (under 65) and Attendance Allowance (over 65) are not means tested; you qualify on health grounds. If someone cares for you more than 35 hours they may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.

Repairs and adaptations

If you decide you need to alter your home because of declining health, you can choose to arrange changes for yourself if you are able and can afford it, but as a starting point it is usually a good idea to see if there is a local Home Improvement Agency (HIA), sometimes called a Staying Put or Care and Repair agency. HIAs also sometimes run handyperson schemes, which can include for example minor plumbing and carpentry jobs, security works, putting up curtain rails. You can find your local HIA on Housing Care .

You could get a grant if you’re disabled, or live with a disabled person and need to make changes to your home, for example to:

  • widen doors and install ramps
  • improve access to rooms and facilities - e.g. stairlifts or a downstairs bathroom
  • provide a heating system suitable for your needs
  • adapt heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use

A Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) may be available through your local authority. DFG’s are means tested. Consult your local social services department in the first instance. Minor aids and adaptations such as grab rails costing less than £1,000 are free if your local authority assesses you as needing them.

Transport and disability

  • If you’re eligible you can get up to a third off rail tickets by applying for a disabled person’s railcard. You must provide evidence of a relevant disability.
  • Under European law, disabled people and other people with reduced mobility have legal rights to help when travelling by air.
  • People of pension age are entitled to a free bus pass. Under pension age disabled people can get free bus travel.

You don’t have to pay car tax if you are disabled. You may also be exempt from VAT on certain equipment, goods and services. Check the HMRC website.

  • The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair by exchanging their Government funded mobility allowance. If you receive either the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance or the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) you may be eligible. Attendance Allowance does not qualify you for eligibility. See
  • Handicap parking permit The Blue Badge scheme provides a range of parking concessions for people with severe mobility problems who have difficulty using public transport, so that they can park close to where they need to go. The scheme is run by local councils and operates throughout the UK. Contact your local council for an application form.

According to Age UK, every year as much as £5.5bn of benefits that older people are entitled to go unclaimed - including Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit and Pension Credit (2013 figures). They have details on their website.

Support is more than financial

Keeping in touch with friends is not always easy but can be a real tonic. The conversations may now be more about our ailments, medications and treatments than our exciting work, or even more exciting love life of the past, but no matter. Finding people with whom to share the every day events of life is important. There are 90 year olds still actively participating in their communities or in learning events such as those provided by the University of the 3rd Age.

There are a lot of volunteer groups who can help in all sorts of ways. It’s worth finding out what is available in your area. The health benefits of social interaction are well documented and giving back to others is great therapy. One idea is to become involved in a self help group for your condition. You might like to fund raise but if you don’t wish to, there are all kinds of other ways you can help out.


The Paralympics are always an inspiration to us all, with athletes of all abilities and disabilities achieving their personal best. We’re not likely now to achieve Olympian standards but we can still set our own goals, however modest. One of them might be to get up in the morning and decide to make the most of each day.

Disclaimer: As with any health related information, you should consult your medical practitioner or other healthcare professional to ensure any item mentioned here, or on sites we link to, is relevant for you. Although we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of information we present we make no warranty as to its accuracy and we have no control over and make no warranty over information presented on sites we link to.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Beth Campbell supported by members of the LaterLife team.  


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