When we reach old age, unfortunately it’s a part of life that our health and mobility tend to decline. If you or your loved ones find that you are starting to find everyday tasks difficult and your care needs are on the rise, you may be wondering what your options are.
This is where care needs assessments come in. To find out what care needs assessments are and how you can get one, read on.
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A care needs assessment is a special test that helps to identify your unique care needs, what kind of care you require and how much support you need. Depending on where you live in the UK, a social worker, occupational therapist, nurse or someone working on your local authority’s behalf will carry out the care assessment.
Again, depending on the country you live in, you can expect the care needs assessor you see to ask you for information about how you live and any personal care preferences and the tasks you find difficult on a daily basis. The assessor will also ask how you want to live your life and whether there are goals or aims you want to achieve but can’t due to your care needs.
Although these can be difficult questions, rest assured that they have been specially designed to make sure your exact care needs are correctly identified. Give as much detail as you are able to, especially about the daily tasks you are struggling with.
The majority of people who do a care needs assessment will be elderly, have a physical disability, mental health problems or a serious illness, but everyone has a right to a care needs assessment, regardless of how you will be paying for your care fees. Care needs assessments are also completely free.
If it’s decided that you don’t need to go into a care home, you could be eligible for help such as adaptations to your home.
To get a care needs assessment, you can ask your local council’s adult social services department. In Northern Ireland, this is the Health and Social care Trust. All you have to do is say that you - or a loved one - need help; whether it’s simple help with daily tasks or more serious care needs.
In England and Wales, you can find your local council on the gov.uk website, in Scotland it’s the mygov.scot website and in Northern Ireland, head to the nidirect website.
If you have urgent care needs, your local council can start providing help before you’ve had an assessment, but you will need to do one as soon as possible to ensure you’re receiving the correct care.
The majority of care assessments are carried out by a care specialist on behalf of your local council or NHS. This assessor could be a nurse, social worker or occupational therapist. The assessment itself can be done over the phone or via an online self-assessment form, but if you feel you would benefit more from a face-to-face assessment this can be arranged.
You are free to ask a relative or friend to sit with you while you do the assessment - they may be able to offer additional information on your condition and the tasks you are finding difficult. You can also request an advocate to act as a spokesperson for you if you find the assessment process difficult or have trouble discussing your care issues. Your local council’s social services department can help you find an advocate if you want one.
If you are happy for the council to speak to the other professionals who provide care for you, such as your GP or nurse, your assessor will also talk to these people to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the support you need.
Care needs assessments might be carried out slightly differently depending on where you live. Read on to find out a bit more about care needs assessments in the UK.
In accordance with the Care Act, local authorities in England are obligated to assess everybody who requests a care needs assessment, regardless of their income or savings - or even whether the local authority thinks they will qualify or not!
You can apply directly to your local authority to request a care needs assessment, or ask your GP or health consultant. A carer, relative or friend can also request one on your behalf.
For the assessment itself, you can bring along anyone else involved in your care, as well as a family member, friend or independent advocate.
To qualify for care in England, you will be assessed on whether your needs meet these three conditions:
Being unable to do one of the criteria means that you need help to do it, it’s painful or distressing to do it yourself, it’s dangerous for you to do it (either to yourself or others), or it takes significantly longer than it should do.
The list of national eligibility criteria is as follows:
The assessor will take all this information into consideration to decide what level of care is needed and which type of care would work best for that person.
In Wales, a national threshold for care eligibility was introduced by the Social Services and Wellbeing Act in 2014. This threshold was divided into four levels; Critical, Substantial, Moderate and Low.
To qualify for care, each person must have care needs caused by:
These care needs also need to be related to the person’s ability to:
Up in Scotland, eligibility criteria also measure risk on a four-level basis, but these are Critical, High, Moderate and Low.
Scottish risk levels relate to:
Finally, in Northern Ireland, if you need care and support, your best bet is to get in touch with your local Health and Social Care Trust (HSC).
Your HSC Trust will assess you to see if you are eligible for help, by looking at critical, moderate, substantial or low-risk criteria for health problems, personal care and domestic tasks, your personal relationships and involvement in work, education or learning.
Before your care needs assessment, it’s often useful to make a list of the tasks you find difficult, especially if some days are worse than others. For example, if you find it hard to get dressed in the mornings, write this down and give as much detail as possible. This will help your assessor decide on the best course of action for your care.
As well as the physical aspects of life, you should also consider cultural, social, religious and emotional needs too, such as visiting a place of worship or seeing family and friends.
After you’ve done the assessment, your local council will take a close look at your answers to decide whether you qualify for care and support. All local councils must use a set of nationally agreed criteria to compare your results with.
If the local council deems you to be eligible for local council care services and support, they will usually conduct a financial assessment too, to see if you have to pay some or all the care costs yourself.
If you don’t agree with the result of the assessment, you can challenge the decision by asking your local council to provide a full written explanation and how the decision was made. Social services departments have a complaints procedure and they have a legal duty to explain how to use it.
Other options available to you include:
If your relative or friend is starting to struggle with daily life, you can arrange a care needs assessment on their behalf, simply by getting in touch with your local council.
Sometimes people who need increased support and care have difficulty getting involved in the decisions about their care. This might be because they lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions In this case, someone else will likely need to make a decision on their behalf - but if they don’t have friends or family, the local authority will arrange an advocate for them.
Once you have been informed of your assessment results, you will be given a written copy of your care plan with information about the care services you need, as well as an elderly care package.
This information could include:
Take the time to read over your care plan, as it will contain lots of important information. You have a right to ask for a care plan review at any time if you believe any decisions to be incorrect, or if your care needs change.
Your local council must review your care plan once a year to ensure that you are still getting the correct level of care and support.
If you move home, you must let your new local council know about the move. They will work with your old local council to get a copy of your care needs assessment and your care plan.
If your local council decides that you don't qualify for support, they must supply you with advice and information on where else you can look for help, such as through charities or other organisations in your area. This information and advice needs to be personalised for you.
You can also look online for support in your area, or ask your GP for information about local support you need.
As we mentioned earlier, your local council will also carry out a financial assessment, usually after your care needs assessment. Financial assessments are also known as means tests and help to work out how much you will need to pay for your care costs - or whether the local council can support you.
Some disabilities, long-term health conditions or more serious medical issues mean that you qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding.
If you care for someone, you are entitled to ask for a free carer’s assessment - in some cases this can be combined with the person’s own care assessment.
Social services departments must check with carers that they are willing and able to continue meeting the care needs of the person they care for.
Carer's assessments might decide that although the person with care needs wants their meals prepared, a meal delivery service could satisfy this need (including ready meals for the elderly) - or if they want 24-hour care, a residential care home might be the better option than having a live-in carer.
Deciding on the future of your care can be tough - but remember that care needs assessments are put in place for your wellbeing and wishes. The assessments allow you to take the lead in making decisions about your care and support; whether you want to stay in your own home, or take part in more activities in your daily life.