Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Funding long term care for older people

Heirs will have to forgo their inheritance

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 03 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:55
  1. Emily Grundy, Reader in social gerontology (
  1. Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. Penn Hospital, Wolverhampton WV4 5HN
  3. Caversham Group Practice, London NW5 2UP

    EDITOR—Murphy makes several points about who the true beneficiaries of the suggested reforms of funding long term care would be.1 They would be not disabled older people of modest means (who might benefit if more money were put into service improvements), poorly paid care workers in homes, or unpaid carers at home but the already well off heirs of older people with assets. Media attention has been focused on old people forced into selling their homes to pay for care. But sensible older people (or their representative) will sell their home on permanently entering care whatever the financial arrangements for paying for the care; the alternative, often, is leaving it empty until their death (though when there is a co-resident spouse or other carer then his or her interests should be safeguarded).

    As Murphy points out, the preserved capital is unlikely to be spent by the older person but will pass to heirs—who are likely to be well off already. Results from the 1994 round of the retirement survey (of people then aged 60-74) showed that 19% had inherited property.2 Among those from social classes IV and V this proportion was only 7%, compared with 30% among professionals. Couples who had inherited property had average incomes of £306 a week, while those who had not had average incomes of £226 a week (some of this …

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