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Care homes: What is a community care needs assessment?

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If your loved one is reaching the stage of having problems looking after themselves, you may like to arrange a community care needs assessment from their local authority. This will assess their individual needs and recommend any services that they may need. Sometimes, services can be provided by the local authority’s social services department, but sometimes they will have to be purchased privately.


Arranging a community care assessment

An assessment can be arranged in a number of ways. You can ask your local authority for an assessment, or your loved one’s GP or hospital consultant could refer them for assessment. If they are in the hospital, their hospital social worker may arrange a community care assessment before they are discharged home.

Local authorities have a duty in law to carry out community care assessments on anyone they are aware of who may need community care services because of physical disability, frailty due to advancing age, serious illness, learning disability or mental health problems.

What is a community care assessment?

An assessment will look at the individual’s needs and recommend services that are appropriate for them. It is normal for an assessment to be carried out before the local authority’s social services department provides any services, although in urgent cases, this can be overridden.

A care plan will be drawn up based on the information gleaned from the assessment, and this can detail any elderly care services your loved one may need. These can include adaptations to property that make care at home possible, aids, care workers or care in a care home.

If you disagree with any decisions that the local authority makes based on the assessment, they can be challenged.

What does the assessment involve?

In order to explore the elderly person’s needs and what support they will benefit from, it is essential that they are involved in the process. You and any other carers should also be fully involved.

The assessment will look at the person’s current living arrangements and any care that they currently receive. This could be in the form of companion care or if your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia care or another type of elderly care.

Your elderly relative’s general health and how well they are able to carry out day to day activities will be assessed. The assessment will also examine any worries your loved one may have and how they would like their support to be delivered.

Many elderly people do not wish to leave their own homes, and would be very upset if they needed to go into a care home, so live in care would probably be their ideal.

If you or other carers have any specific concerns, these will also be taken into account.

It can be beneficial to discuss your loved one’s needs with them before the assessment and make a note of any important points so that you remember to mention them at the time of the assessment.

Sometimes, the person will be asked to fill in a self-assessment questionnaire before the assessment. If your loved one needs assistance with the form due to dementia or another health condition, this can be given.

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Where will the assessment be carried out?

Ideally, the assessment will be carried out in your loved one’s home because this can be helpful in giving the assessor a better indication of how they are managing and the kind of support they need.

If the assessment is carried out elsewhere, the social services department should ensure that the venue is convenient for you and your loved one. If your relative is in the hospital and needs an assessment, the assessor may visit their home so they can find out more about their situation before they leave.

Who will carry out the assessment?

Although the social services department of the local authority will arrange the assessment, a range of people such as doctors, nurses and other professionals may also be involved or provide information. Sometimes, an assessment will just take one visit, but if your loved one has complex needs, it could take considerably longer.

After the assessment

Following the community care assessment, the local authority may make recommendations about the services that your loved one needs. These may include practical support such as assistance with shopping or laundry or having someone to prompt them to take their medication correctly. They may recommend a carer to help with personal care tasks such as washing, dressing or mobilising.

The assessment may recommend special disability equipment or adaptations in the home, such as grab rails or a stairlift, to make day to day life easier.

Sometimes, sheltered housing or extra-sheltered housing may be recommended, or the assessor may feel that your loved one would benefit from admission to a residential care home or nursing home, either on a permanent basis or for regular planned periods of respite care.

Other recommendations can include providing information and advice about what support is available in the community.

Local authority resources

If the assessment establishes that a community care service is needed, it has a duty to provide the service. It should not fail to provide the service on cost grounds, but if there is an alternative option, it can choose to provide the more cost-effective of the two.