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Reader question: Can I move into a Spanish care home as a foreigner?

Many people move to Spain to enjoy the retirement dream in the sun, but what happens if you become ill and can no longer live independently?

Spanish care home
What happens if you need to go into a care home in Spain? Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

Reader question: What happens if someone moves to Spain and then needs to go into a care home because of old age or illness? Who pays? Does it make a difference if you worked in Spain and paid into the Spanish system, or if you moved here after retirement?

This is a common question for people who retired in Spain from abroad and those who worked here and want to retire in Spain too.

According to a new study from Money.co.uk, Spain is one of the world’s most searched for retirement destinations and is the world’s sixth most popular country to retire in.

Per the latest statistics from the Spanish authorities from 2019, 38.7 percent of foreign residents in Spain from the EU were of retirement age and 33.9 percent were from Europe, but not an EU country.

This means that as well as having to provide services for the elderly Spanish population it is necessary to provide them for the foreign population too.

According to real estate giant Knight Frank in its latest European care homes report, “By 2050, Spain will have the second-highest share of people over the age of 80 in the world, surpassed only by Japan”. 

So what happens when you can no longer take care of yourself – what rights do you have to access Spanish care homes and will you have to pay for it all?

The good news is that there are no specific rules preventing foreign nationals from living in a Spanish care home – provided they have the legal right to reside in Spain. This means being from an EU country, protected under the Withdrawal Agreement if you are British and moved before Brexit, or have the appropriate visa for third-country nationals. 

Traditionally, the care of the elderly in Spain has been taken over by family members who become full-time caregivers so Spain has a less developed care home market than other countries such as the UK.

According to Knight Frank’s European care homes report, Spain and Italy only spend 0.9 percent of GDP on long-term care provision. 

That being said, there are several different care home options in Spain, some of which even have specifically been set up by foreigners. For example, the Norwegian government has created several care homes in Spain for its citizens who have retired abroad.

There are several different types of care homes for the elderly in Spain, depending on the type of level of care that you need. These include: 

Residental care home – Residencia para personas mayors/ancianos

Nursing home – Residencia con servicos de asistencia médica

Hospice – Centro de cuidados paliativos

Retirement housing – Viviendas aptas para jubilados

Who pays?

According to Info Residencias, the website for geriatric assistance in Spain, if you need to enter a care home in Spain, you should go to the social services of your town hall (ayuntamiento).

They will consider your health, economic and social situation and will decide if you are eligible to be sent to a care home or if you should be provided with care at home instead.

If you are deemed eligible, they will assign you either a place in a public or private residence, depending on your financial situation.  

If you recently retired to Spain and have not worked or paid into the social security system however, it is unlikely that you will be placed in a public care home and will probably have to pay for a place in a private care home.  

Info Residencias says that “a private residence for the elderly in a large city ranges from approximately €1,400 to more than €2,500 per month. Outside of the big cities, the prices may be somewhat lower, but not much more”. 

While Knight Franks writes in its report that Spanish care home fees range from €1,800 to €2,200 a month, depending on the region and quality of accommodation.

How can you pay?

Pension

If your pension plan is enough to cover the cost of the care home fees, then they will usually be paid for that way.

There are however several other ways of paying for care homes suggested by the Spanish authorities. These include:

Reverse Mortgage

The Reverse Mortgage (hipotecas revertidas) is a loan for people over 65 who own a home in Spain. Financial entities or insurance companies will typically pay you a monthly income which is secured against your home. 

However, one downside to this is that if more costs and debts rack up, then you could lose your home and won’t be able to pass it on to your children.

Programa Pensium

Another way that your home can be used to help pay for a care home is through the Programa Pensium. If you sign up for the programme, your home will be rented out, and contributions made for you on top of that towards your care. The management of the rental of your property will also be taken care of so that your family doesn’t have to worry about this as well. 

This way you get to keep your home and your family can do with it what they want when you pass away. It also gives you flexibility, allowing to you cancel the program at any time. 

Britons

Certain benefits that cover care costs are not available to non-EU citizens who have never worked or paid social security in Spain.

The UK Government does not have any reciprocal arrangements to cover overseas residential or nursing care for Brits living in Spain, so you will not be able to rely on help from back home, but will be able to use your pension from the UK if you receive it in Spain. 

READ ALSO: How Americans can retire in Spain

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HEALTH

UV Index: Where in Spain you have to take extra care with sun exposure

We all know that too much sun can cause health problems, but there are particular places in Spain where the UV Index is higher than others and you need to be particularly careful. Read on to find out where.

UV Index: Where in Spain you have to take extra care with sun exposure

Spaniards and indeed foreign residents in Spain spend a lot of time in the sun, particularly at the beach in summer, and sunbathing is a popular pastime.

While it’s obviously not a good idea to be sunbathing during the hottest part of the day anywhere in Spain, there are some places that are worse than others.

When the sun shines, it emits radiation and one of the most dangerous is ultraviolet radiation. While ultraviolet radiation is not harmful in low doses, it can cause skin damage after long and intense exposure.

The UV Index measures the amount of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and alerts people to the risk that the sun poses to our health on a daily basis.

The Canary Islands have the highest UV Index out of all the regions in Spain, meaning that if you live there or are thinking of going on holiday there, you should take extra precautions in the sun.

A UV Index level of 8 to 10, as well as anything above 10 is considered to be very high and extremely dangerous.

The Canary Islands consistently record UV Index levels 2 or 3 points above the rest of Spain and in some parts of the day up to four points above.

UV Index levels change throughout the day and reach their highest from about 1pm – 4pm, when you have to take extra care.

For example, on Friday August 12th the UV Index for the hottest part of the day in most of mainland Spain hovers around 7-9, whereas in the Canary Islands it reaches 11-13.

According to Canarian dermatologist Dr. Paula Aguayo, one in five canaries could be at risk from skin cancer throughout their lives due to inadequate sun protection.  

She recommends that people in the Canary Islands avoid the sun between midday and 6pm, use broad-spectrum sunscreens which protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation and a sunscreen with a factor not lower than 30. “ In fact, it is preferable to use factor 50,” she says.

The regions in Spain that typically have the least amount of UV are located along the northern coast, places such as Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias and the Basque Country.

When the UV Index is anywhere from 6 upwards, experts recommend:

  • Avoiding direct sun exposure during the hottest part of the day and always keeping to the shade.
  • Wearing sunglasses with adequate UV protection as well as a hat.
  • Covering your skin and applying sunscreen with a high factor to the parts that are exposed. It is recommended to put cream on in the house before you go out into the sun and to always reapply it after swimming, even if it’s a waterproof sunscreen.
  • Drinking lots of water – In the sun and heat, the skin becomes dehydrated and this aggravates skin aging caused by ultraviolet rays.

Be sun safe even on cloudy days

The UV Index is usually lower on cloudy days, but even so, solar radiation can penetrate through the clouds.  According to scientists, even if the sky is completely covered, 40 percent of the sun’s radiation can still reach earth, so even if it doesn’t feel so hot, you still need to remember your sun protection.

Take extra care in the mountains  

Those heading to the mountains instead of the coast this summer should take extra care from the sun as the UV Index can reach its highest in places of high altitude and you risk being exposed to more radiation.

Mount Teide on the Canary Island of Tenerife and the highest mountain in Spain is one of the worst places for getting sunburnt. Up here, in summer there are around 12 hours of sun a day.

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