The dementia journey doesn’t only present physical and emotional challenges. In fact, many family carers find the financial challenges the most stressful of all. Working out what – if anything - you might be entitled to, and filling in endless, complicated forms can be a dispiriting and humiliating experience.

So news this week about government plans to extend the use of personal health budgets might come as welcome news…. providing you already know what these budgets are for and who qualifies for them.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2 different types of personal budgets:

1 - Personal Health Budgets
These are funded by the NHS, to support your healthcare needs. (These are the ones that were in the news this week). Only people who already receive NHS Continuing Health Care can apply for a personal health budget.

Why have a personal health budget?
Currently, only 23,000 people in the UK who have Continuing Health Care have opted to receive personal health budgets, but the government is now encouraging more people with complex health needs (not just dementia) to apply. Having a personal health budget will, they say, ‘put the power back in the hands of the patients,’ allowing them to spend the money on the care and treatment they consider best for their condition.’ (although whatever they decide to spend it on must also meet with a doctor’s approval).

BUT: People with dementia who receive CHC and are living in care homes, might not find a personal health budget to be useful or appropriate.  However, for those living at home, it could offer more choice and flexibility. To find out how to apply for CHC, go here.

2 - Personal Budgets
These are funded by your Local Authority for your social care and support needs. To be eligible, you need to have a care needs assessment by social services and fulfil certain financial criteria.

Why have a Personal Budget?
It can be used to make life a little easier, funding anything from professional carers to a once a week taxi to a day centre. The money can be paid directly to the person with dementia – this is called ‘direct payments’ – so that it goes into their bank account and they can be in control how it’s spent themselves. Although a good idea in principle – highlighting the uniqueness of every dementia journey and that every person with dementia may have different needs – it can present difficulties, particularly if the person you care about isn’t able to manage a budget themselves. However, there are ways around this so don’t let it put you off applying. Go here for more information.

Can one person have a personal health budget and a personal budget?
Yes, they can! If you already have a personal budget from your local authority you could also apply for a personal health budget from the NHS (providing you are eligible for Continuing Health Care). If you receive both, you can have them paid into the same account. This is called an Integrated Personal Budget.

NEED MORE HELP?
We know that sorting out finances and working out benefit entitlements can be very complicated and causes a great deal of stress and worry for family carers. The Unforgettable Dementia Support Group regularly discuss all these issues. Please join the group here and tell us which areas you’ve found most difficult to navigate. For example, have you tried applying for Continuing Healthcare? Did you find it difficult to get Attendance Allowance? Are you struggling to managing a personal budget for a loved one? Let us know: we want to help.