Elderly care: AMs urge end to residential home reliance
More should be done to reduce Wales' reliance on using care homes as a way to look after older people, says a group of Assembly Members.
The assembly's health committee has backed moves to help people keep their independence for as long as possible.
Families need simple and accessible information about the options available for elderly relatives, it said.
It pointed out that many elderly people who pay for their own care were unaware of the help available to them.
People with assets of more than £23,250 are expected to pay the whole cost of their care. Other people should have their needs assessed and could qualify for financial support from their local council.
An inquiry heard suggestions that some so-called self-funders receive no information or advice from their local authority, nor any assessment of their needs. Between 31% and 42% of older people in care homes are self-funders.
Life-changing decisions about whether to go into residential care are often made at times of crisis, according to a report by the committee.
It said it was therefore vital that older people and their families were able to consider all the options available to them so that they had a "meaningful choice".
The report said Welsh government policy was moving in the right direction by enabling as many older people as possible to be looked after at home.
Residential care should also have a less important role in the future as alternative ways of looking after people are developed.
Committee chairman Mark Drakeford said: "Considering care options for our later years can be an incredibly difficult process, as it is a recognition either of our own diminishing independence or that of those we love.
"Part of this process is to make information on all the available options as clear and simple as possible so that everyone involved in the process, including older people and their families, can make informed choices."
Some 83% cent of care homes are owned by private companies, 15% belong to local councils and 2% to voluntary groups.
The report makes clear that the system faces more pressure form an ageing population. In the next 25 years the number of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by around 306,000.
In 2010, the over-65s made up 18.6% of the population, and that is estimated to rise to 25.6% by 2035.
The number of people with dementia is also predicted to increase. Two-thirds of people in residential care have dementia.
Sarah Rochira, the older people's commissioner for Wales, said the report reflected the issues that older people have been raising with her consistently since she took up her post.
She said: "We need to change and improve the way we support older people as they age.
"There is almost no bigger decision when we grow older than where we're going to live.
"All too often older people don't have the information and advice about choices and options available to them and many older people don't have the support they need to make these very big decisions."
Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, said care homes had changed a great deal in the 28 years since he began working in the sector.
There was a need to recognise the skills of carers and managers working at homes although the report "will provide higher standards in future".
He said good quality residential care homes are "the perfect setting" to provide a four-to-six-week period of care between people leaving hospital and returning home.
He added: "We have to raise status of the social care workforce."