It can be very difficult to assess whether or not your parents or relatives need more help at home. No-one wants to admit that they struggle with everyday tasks and for many the idea of more help at home is just the slippery slope to losing their independence – so may well hide things from you.
We have identified key things to look out for and questions to ask to give you a sense of whether or not your parents might need more help at home.
- Look around the house and garden to see if things are less well cared for than they used to be: is the house looking messier than it used to, especially kitchen and bathroom? Is laundry piling up and clothes left un-ironed? Is post unopened?
- Money: are bills getting paid, or are there reminders in the post? If you are able to look at a bank statement, does it look like spending patterns have changed?
- Medication: if they take medication, do they have dosette boxes for their pills and do they seem to be being taken regularly – lots of full packets in the kitchen drawer or the bathroom cabinet?
- Personal hygiene: are they wearing clean clothes and do they appear to be looking after themselves – hair, shaving, teeth? Can they still get into the bath/shower? It may be worth asking this question directly, as this is often a real challenge as mobility reduces.
- Clothes: are they over or under-dressed for the weather?
- Food: check the fridge to make sure food is (reasonably) in date and to see if they appear to be eating regular meals. Are they still able to cook or heat food safely?
- Mobility: can they still get up and down stairs if they have them? Are they able to walk to shops or public transport, or to drive themselves safely?
- Hobbies and socialising: are they still doing the things they have enjoyed doing until now? Are they getting out to see friends or go to activities?
- Ask someone: ask a neighbour, cleaner or friend perhaps how they think your parents are doing – particularly if they see them on a regular basis; it’s not a great feeling to be “spying” on your parents, but might be best in the long run;
What to do next
You may need to take things slowly, suggesting some extra cleaning help at first, while you investigate other help such as care agencies or carers; there are also charities that provide help from shopping to driving or companionship. There are lots of other suggestions to help someone stay longer in their own home in this section.
People tell us and from our own experience we know that there is often an informal network already in place such as the cleaner or window cleaner or perhaps a neighbour who are only too pleased to do a bit more, particularly if it gives some breathing space to find longer term solutions. It can be much easier to start by increasing the involvement of people already familiar to your parents, people who they already trust, and who they may see more than they do you!
You should also encourage them to talk to their GP, or arrange for an assessment from Dorset County Council social services who can carry out a supported assessment, as well as a carers assessment if needed, to provide a plan regarding the care that they need. This could range from adaptations to the home through to moving into a care home. The local authority will provide details of how to find that care and if eligible they will fund part or all of the care that they recommend.
What you need to know about getting an assessment from DCC
Anyone who might need more help or care is eligible for a “supported assessment” from Dorset County Council adult social services department. They can also carry out a carers assessment for a spouse or partner. The assessment will identify the needs and care required. A financial assessment can also be carried out to establish whether or not your parents will have to pay for their own care. There is more information here
There are three main areas of eligibility for more care:
- If the needs arise from a physical or mental impairment or illness
- If your parent is unable to achieve two or more of the specified “care outcomes” (see below)
- If there is likely to be a significant impact on their well-being.
Find out more here
Our advice is to be with your parents for the assessments if you possibly can, or ensure that someone they/you trust is. Not only can you help avoid the “stiff upper lip” approach that some may take, minimising or downplaying their health/care issues for the assessment, but you can ensure that it covers all your parent’s health and social care needs – even if you know that they will be paying for any care themselves. The ‘care outcomes’ that DCC will consider are:
- Managing and maintaining nutrition
- Maintaining personal hygiene
- Managing toilet needs
- Being appropriately clothed
- Being able to make use of the adult’s home safely
- Maintaining a habitable home environment
- Developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships
- Accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering
- Making use of local community facilities or services including public transport
Following the assessment and If the criteria are met, DCC will produce a detailed plan and a personal budget,o provide information on what care is available and how to access these services, even if it will not be provided by them.
If you are unhappy with the assessments you can appeal against them
What you should do first
Any relative or carer of any adult with needs should contact their local GP or health centre to find out who is responsible for the preparation of the crucial care and support needs assessment in their area. Armed with this the stress and strain of helping an elderly relative or friend should be more straightforward. The primary responsibility on local authorities is not to provide “services” but to meet the needs of the adults in their area.
For more general information, the Which Guide has excellent information about the care and needs assessment .
OR we have more information on care and financial assessments on our main site.