Getting more help at home when you have dementia

Are you worried that your loved one with dementia needs more support? Here’s how to get a care needs assessment and make sure they’re getting all the help they’re entitled to.

Many people living with dementia find they need more help with day-to-day life as their illness progresses. Perhaps they’re having more trouble preparing meals, shopping for food, or getting around the house? Paying for help can be expensive but this might not be necessary because your loved one may be entitled to free or low cost care provided by their local authority.
To find out if they’re eligible, they must have a ‘care needs assessment’, which is sometimes called a ‘community care assessment’ or a ‘needs assessment.’

How do I arrange a care needs assessment?

There are several ways to do this. The person with dementia can request one themselves by phoning social services (these requests are usually handled by the Adult Services team or Adult Social Care department). If they aren’t able to do this, you can call on their behalf. A GP, nurse, or social worker can also make the referral.

What happens next?

Before the assessment takes place, the person with dementia will be sent some information in advance, including the kind of questions they might be asked. Areas of interest include how they’re currently managing, who helps them, what they can and can’t do and how they’d prefer to be helped in the future. It’s worth spending some time looking at the questions together and thinking about your needs and wishes.

Two tips

Make notes or keep a journal in the days leading up to the assessment. Is there a particular time of day when extra care might be very useful? Is there a task or activity that your loved one may need extra help with? Would mobility aids be useful? You may find you’re entitled to some free equipment.

Collect evidence that what you’re asking for is fair and reasonable. For example, if the person with dementia recently burnt themselves on a cooker can you get a letter from a doctor or nurse to add strength to your concerns about their safety in the kitchen?

Three facts about the care needs assessment

1. A care needs assessment is usually carried out in the person’s home, but it can sometimes be done over the phone.
2. It’s carried out by a social worker – who may be called a care manager – but a nurse or doctor might also be involved.
3. It can sometimes be carried out at the same time as a carer’s assessment.

Golden rule: Be honest

It’s pointless putting on a brave face during a care needs assessment or pretending you can cope when you can’t. The assessment is designed to make sure a person with dementia gets the help they need and deserve so they can continue to enjoy life.

How care needs are assessed

Whether or not you will get free or low cost care as a result of a care needs assessment depends on
Financial situation – your income and assets such as savings and shares will be taken into account.
‘Eligible care needs’ – these are based on the findings of the care needs assessment and can include the need for assistance with eating and drinking, personal hygiene, safety at home, dressing or simply being helped to maintain a social life so they don’t become lonely and isolated.

If the person you’re caring for meets the criteria, a care plan will be drawn up detailing what help they will receive. If they are asked to make a financial contribution towards any of this, the amount should be ‘reasonable’ and should not leave them in financial hardship.
If they aren’t considered eligible now, you could request a review to take place when their illness progresses or if your loved one’s financial situation changes.