HELP the Aged's research published last week revealed the widespread confusion among those approaching retirement age about paying for the care they may need in later life.

Worryingly, more than half (55 per cent) think that should they need a place in a care home, their basic state pension would help to cover the fees. However a pension of £82 a week would not go far towards meeting the £400 a week average cost of a care home. Furthermore, many were under the impression that the state would pick up some or the entire bill, although in reality the Help the Aged Care Fees Advice Service estimates that those who have to meet part or all of the cost of their care now account for about 40 per cent of people in care homes.

It's clear therefore that a major debate on the future of the funding of care is badly needed. Meanwhile, however, there is a generation grappling with this daunting reality now. The chaos over who pays for care continues unabated and the real losers are older people and their families who are left feeling vulnerable at the time when they need support the most.

Older people who are entering or already in care and who are confused about their fees or feel they are wrongly paying need trusted, independent advice.

The Help the Aged Care Fees Advice Service, provided by independent financial advisers NHFA Ltd, offers impartial advice to anyone, entering or already in care, regardless of means. The service combines specialist independent financial advice with information on the many associated issues, such as local authority charging procedures, health authority responsibilities, benefits and legal matters. It can help people find their way around the complex system of funding care and readers can telephone freephone 0500 76 74 76 or visit for further information.

PHILIP SPIERS, Help the Aged Care Fees Advice Service.