Preparing for a care-needs assessment

13th January 2022

The first step towards finding the care a loved one needs is for them to undergo a formal assessment by their local authority – here’s how to get the most from it.

If you’re supporting someone who might need long-term care, such as a parent or grandparent, it’s always a good idea to apply for a care-needs assessment. This is carried out by the social-services department of their local authority and will help establish the best way to provide the necessary assistance.

There are many types of care for the elderly that could be offered, such as:

  • Installing equipment in their home, eg a personal alarm or a stair lift
  • Practical help or medical care in their home, by a paid carer or nurse
  • Moving to a residential care home or nursing home

Many people who know they will be paying for their own care home or in-home care don’t undergo a care-needs assessment, as they think it’s only for those who are likely to seek council funding.

However, this is very much not the case: it’s always useful to have one so that their precise needs can be clarified by a professional.

Anyone can apply to have an assessment and it’s free, wherever they live.

In order to make the assessment as accurate and useful as possible, it’s essential to be well prepared. Here’s our advice on how to get the most out of it.

What happens at a care-needs assessment?

The assessment will be carried out by either a social worker or an occupational therapist, who will be an expert in understanding the needs of older people. It could be face to face, on the phone or online – and if your loved one is not comfortable doing it remotely, they can ask to be seen in person (subject to COVID-19 restrictions).

They can either arrange the assessment themselves, or you can do so on their behalf – but they must also agree to have the assessment, as long as they have the mental capacity to do so.

The assessor will cover areas such as their current abilities, any physical difficulties they’re having (and the risks that might present), their emotional and social situation, their support network and any health or housing requirements they may have.

The assessor will also ask your relative what they would like to happen. You can be present during the meeting and help to answer any questions.

What to do in advance

The more you can prepare before the assessment, the easier it will be and the more positive the outcome will be. Help your loved one to get all the right information to hand.

Important things to think about in advance are various aspects of their day-to-day life – and in particular, the ones they’re having most difficulty with. These could include:

  • Washing, dressing and going to the toilet
  • Preparing meals
  • Cleaning and tidying up
  • Getting around the house, particularly if there are steps and stairs
  • Doing the shopping

You should also think about any medical needs and problems they have, such as:

  • Ongoing or recent health problems (either mental or physical)
  • Any medication they’re taking
  • Sight and hearing loss
  • Mobility and falling over
  • Not eating a healthy diet or regular meals

It’s then useful to consider in advance how those needs could be addressed. For example, if they don’t want to leave their own home, could having some help around the house make a difference? Or if they need to move to a care home, is it important that they stay in a particular area so they can be close to family and friends?

Make sure you write everything down – having a list in front of you during the assessment will help you and your relative to remember everything on the day.

Getting the most from the assessment

A lot of older people don’t want to make a fuss or be seen as a ‘burden’, or might be concerned about what’s going to happen next, so are tempted to downplay their needs or neglect to mention certain problems. However, it’s really important they don’t do this on the day, as the person carrying out the assessment can only base a care plan on the information they are given.

Therefore, your relative needs to answer everything as accurately and in as much detail as possible – or, if they’re not comfortable doing so, they can ask you to answer on their behalf. What’s more, if any particular problems or needs are not brought up by the assessor, they shouldn’t be afraid to mention them, so the assessor can get a full picture of the current situation.

It’s also common for everyone to have good and bad days, so your loved one should base all their answers on what their needs are on the latter.

Finally, because their needs are likely to change over time, they should be reviewed regularly. Their local authority should do this at least every 12 months, but an earlier review can be requested if necessary.

What happens afterwards?

After the assessment, your relative will be issued with a care plan that will detail all their needs and how they could be met. This will help them to work out the next steps in finding the right care.

They can also apply for a means test, which will assess whether the local authority will give them financial support for their care needs, and if so, how much.