Caring for an elderly relative is not always easy, particularly if you have a job and a home of your own to run. The carers assessment is there to look at the kind of help and support you need to fulfil your caring responsibilities, and look after your own wellbeing.
What is a carer’s assessment?
A care assessment is your chance to let your local council know that you have taken on the role of looking after someone. It gives you an opportunity to share how caring is impacting you both mentally and physically, and how it’s changed your day to day life.
While it’s called an assessment, it’s not a test you need to take under exam conditions, or a way of assessing your ability to provide care. Often an assessor will invite you for a face to face discussion about your experience as a carer. However, some councils do offer people the opportunity to do the assessment over the phone, or online via a self-assessment questionnaire too.
It shouldn’t be confused with a needs assessment which is the assessment councils do to work out if the person you’re caring for is eligible for care support.
Care assessment is the term most commonly used by English county councils. In Scotland however, it may be called an ‘adult carer support plan’ instead, and in Wales, it may be called a ‘carer’s needs assessment’. However, it’s essentially the same thing.
How can I get a carer’s assessment?
Anyone over the age of 18 who cares for a person is entitled to an assessment of their needs as a carer. It doesn’t matter how many hours of care you provide a week, or if you live with the person you’re caring for.
You’ll likely be recognised as a carer if you help someone with –
- Getting washed and dressed
- Taking or managing medication
- Cooking and preparing food
- Getting out and about safely. This can include driving them places, booking them taxis, or accompanying them
- Attending medical appointments with them
- Paying bills and managing money
- Shopping and running errands
- Cleaning and doing laundry
You can request a carers assessment from your local social services (if you live in the same county or borough as they do) or by contacting their local social services if you live elsewhere. You can use the UK Government website to find the relevant council’s website, and contact details for applying.
You can do this once you have already begun caring for your loved one, or before you start looking after them. The service is available to absolutely everyone, regardless of income, so it’s worth doing to discover the type of help that could be on offer for you and your loved one.
Where more than one person is taking responsibility for the care of an elderly relative, they are all entitled to a carer’s assessment, and this is not dependent on the number of hours worked or on the sort of care that you are providing. In fact, many carer’s assessments are requested because the carer is also trying to hold down a full-time job, which is having an impact on their own life.
The carer’s assessment can be carried out in conjunction with a needs assessment of your loved one, provided that you both agree to this. Even if your relative has been declared ineligible for support following a previous needs assessment, this has no impact on your own carer assessment.
What does the carer’s assessment involve?
Most assessments take around an hour. If you’re offered a face-to-face meeting, this will usually take place at your local council offices, in your own home, or in your elderly relative’s home. It is up to you whether you choose to have your elderly relative present at the meeting, but it is perfectly acceptable to have a friend or family member accompanying you to the meeting.
During the assessment, the assessor will ask you about –
- What your role as a carer is like
- how you feel about caring
- Whether you’re able to continue providing care, and what the future may look like for you
- Your health
- Your work
- Whether you have any other caring responsibilities e.g looking after children
- What you like doing in your spare time
- If you have a plan in place for emergencies, or what will happen if you’re unable to care for some reason.
How can I prepare for the carers assessment?
You may be asked to bring –
- your NHS number
- your GP’s details
- your contact details
- details of anyone coming to the assessment with you
- details of the person you care for including their NHS number.
It can be beneficial to make notes before your assessment, to make sure that you cover all the essential topics. You should consider the impact that your caring role has upon your general health and state of mind, and how it affects all aspects of your life. Think about whether you’ve had to give up certain things, make changes to your life, or spent money due to your caring role.
The purpose of the assessment is to establish the amount and type of support that you need, so you should aim to be completely honest about the effect it is having, or will have, on your life. If you put on a brave face, or downplay your experience you may miss out on support. For this reason, if you’re uncomfortable being frank in front of the person you’re caring for, it may be best to so the assessment somewhere they won’t be.
The assessment should also take into consideration what will happen in the event of an emergency. Many local council’s have a planned Carer Emergency Scheme, which will offer you help and assistance if you find yourself in an extreme situation. Often you’ll be given a card to carry at all times,
Usually you will need to carry a special card with you at all times. In an emergency, anyone who finds this card will know you care for someone, and there’ll be a number to call and a reference code for them to raise the alarm.
Establishing eligibility for assistance
Once you have completed your assessment interview or questionnaire, your answers will be considered, and your local social services department will decide whether or not you meet the eligibility criteria for assistance.
As a rule of thumb, the greater the impact that caring has on your wellbeing, the likelier it is that you will qualify for assistance, whether practical or financial.
Your social services team will seek to establish whether or not your role as a carer is having an impact on your life, and how much it is affecting you, and they will decide on your eligibility for assistance based on this.
What happens next?
If you’re eligible for help, the council will draw up a support plan. The plan may include things like –
- help with housework or gardening
- specialist training to help you provide care safely
- equipment or alterations to the home of the person you’re caring for
- emotional support such as counselling, mental health services, or local support networks
- help with arranging breaks from caring
- support with claiming benefits you may be entitled too
- support to improve your wellbeing through things like exercise classes or social activities
Councils are usually advised to offer this support for free, however there’s no standard rule for this. Some councils may ask you to complete a financial assessment to work out if you can afford to contribute towards the cost of these services.
Although your local authority will suggest certain services, you are not obliged to use them.
If your local authority feels that you do not need any additional help, they are obliged to inform you of this fact, and to provide you with information on what to do if your circumstances change.
It may be decided that the best way forward is to provide your loved one with additional support instead, or you may be offered a combination of support services.
What other support can I get as an informal carer?
It’s also worth speaking to your own GP and asking them if you can register as a carer in your patient notes. They’ll ask you to fill in an NHS form, and once complete, your carer status can help you access a range of support from your local doctor’s surgery. Different surgery’s offer different levels of support, but this could include –
- awareness and help with physical health issues related to your caring role, e.g tiredness or back problems
- a free annual flu jab
- support accessing NHS mental health services
- general carer information and advice
- referrals to local organisations and support networks
- more flexible appointment times
- a referral for a you for a Carer’s Break payment (under the GP Carer’s Break Scheme) if your caring role is having a detrimental impact on your health
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