__When you suspect that your elderly relative is not coping well in their own home, it can be difficult to know where to go for help and support. __
You may be wondering whether your loved one qualifies for help and assistance, and whether or not you should be looking into providing a part-time or full-time carer, or searching for a place in residential care. You may be providing elements of care yourself and be struggling to cope. There’s no need to suffer in silence, as help and support is available.
Arranging a care assessment
Local authorities are legally obliged to offer a care assessment, also known as a care needs assessment, to anyone who requests one. The assessment is completely free and is undertaken by the council’s social services department.
They will establish whether or not your loved one is entitled to care and support and if so, whether or not it will be provided free of charge or subject to payment.
If you are carrying out any caring duties yourself, then you may be entitled to a carer’s support assessment, which will establish whether you need support and assistance to continue in this role.
Sometimes, your local council offices will arrange for a care assessment to be carried out, but in most cases, it needs to be requested. Contact your local council and ask to be referred to their social services department for a care needs assessment.
Each authority will have its own way of dealing with the assessment, but all local authorities must conform to the same rules to ensure a level playing field for everyone, no matter whereabouts in the country they live.
If you are requesting an assessment for someone other than yourself, you need to have their permission beforehand. Let your social services department know if your loved one is unable to grant this permission due to impaired mental capacity.
What does an assessment involve?
The assessment will be undertaken by a social worker, care manager or occupational therapist, who will consider your relative’s exact needs by assessing various aspects of their life.
They will consider any physical, mental and emotional difficulties that your loved one has, and will take into account their needs and wishes when making their report, as well as investigating medical records.
Your loved one’s local authority has a legal duty to ensure their wellbeing, so they will consider all aspects of your loved one’s life when reaching a decision about care needs.
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Eligibility for assistance
Your loved one qualifies for assistance if they meet three specific criteria:
- They have specific needs related to illness or disability
- Their wellbeing is impacted by those needs
- Those needs prevent them from achieving at least two specific outcomes from a designated list, which includes being able to prepare a nutritious meal, maintaining personal standards of hygiene, managing personal hygiene by themselves, being able to dress themselves, and managing to remain safe in their own home.
Ask to see a list of eligible criteria yourself, and raise any points that may be relevant. Your relative may be reluctant to reveal the extent of their problems, so make sure that the social worker carrying out the assessment is given all the necessary information that they need in order to ensure as fair and accurate an assessment as possible.
Local authority assistance
Once a needs assessment has been carried out, it will establish whether or not help is available in your loved one’s particular circumstances. Where their needs do not qualify for assistance, the social services department should provide you with information on where to find additional help and support, along with instructions on what to do in the event of any changes to your loved one’s circumstances.
If your loved one does qualify for assistance, the social services department should ensure that a dedicated care plan is drawn up, defining their needs and offering support to ensure that those needs are met.
Your loved one’s financial situation will be assessed to discover whether or not they are eligible for local authority assistance, and your loved one will be informed if they are expected to contribute to the cost of that support.
Where a care assessment uncovers a need for support, your loved one will be offered a care plan outlining the assessment findings. Support may be offered by your local authority, but you are not obliged to go down this route, and your loved one is free to spend any funding on private care if they prefer.
Paying for care
When it comes to elderly care, the majority of elderly people would prefer to remain in their own homes, supported by carers if necessary. Care at home is becoming increasingly popular, with care options ranging from providing simple companion care through to the more complex demands of dementia care.
With the help of financial aid from your loved one’s local authority, it’s possible to fund live-in care, even from a non-council care provider, such as Elder, for example. Where your loved one fails to qualify for local authority funding following a care assessment, you can still arrange for live-in care, although this will need to be completely funded by you, or your loved one.
Bear in mind that a change in your loved one’s health or circumstances could mean that a second care assessment will establish a need, where previously there had been none, so be prepared to revisit the assessment process to review the situation.