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The need for additional care is not always obvious. Carrying out a local authority needs assessment can help identify the level of care and support required. You might also need to speak to your relative, and those that currently care for them, to get a full picture of what is needed.

On this page, you will find information about:

1. Signs that your relative might be struggling
2. Talking about your relative's needs
3. Checklist: is additional care needed?
4. How to get a care needs assessment

Signs that your relative might be struggling

As people get older, or experience health problems, they might find it more difficult to complete everyday tasks and so require extra care and support. If you’re concerned about a relative, pay them a visit. Be aware of signs that they could be struggling:

  • Are there any obvious signs of things that concern you, such as piles of unopened post or an overgrown garden?
  • Does your relative generally look clean and well looked-after? If not, they might be struggling with personal care or household tasks.
  • Is your relative dressed in clothes appropriate for the weather?
  • Do they seem to be taking the medication they need? Are medicines clearly labelled, easily accessible and in date?
  • Is there evidence that your relative is eating regular meals? Does it look as if they’ve been shopping lately? Is there food in the cupboards?
  • Is food stored correctly? For example, are items that are supposed to be kept chilled in the fridge? Are items that are meant to be frozen kept in the freezer? Is the milk in date?

Talking about your relative’s needs

If you suspect that your relative’s care needs have changed, the first step is to talk to them. Make time to sit down with them and chat about how they are getting on. They might not want to bring up the subject of care themselves, but may respond to gentle but direct questions. If you’re unsure what to say, read our guide to Talking about care options, which offers advice on how to communicate effectively and deal with difficult conversations.

If your relative isn’t currently receiving care, ask if there is anything that they need help with or what might make their life easier. If your relative is already receiving care, ask what they think of their carer and if there's anything else they would like done. You might also want to seek feedback from the people close to them and those delivering their care.

The following checklist offers advice on things to look for, and questions to ask, to help you identify any particular difficulties your relative might be experiencing.

Checklist: is additional care needed?

It's best to ask open questions that encourage detailed answers (not simply a yes or no response) as you are likely to get more useful answers, but the following suggestions can help you structure a conversation and keep in mind what you need to know.

Questions to ask your relative

  • How are you coping with personal care and housework?
  • Is there anything you struggle with?
  • Are any tasks more difficult than they used to be?
  • Do you have any difficulty washing or drying your laundry?
  • Are you able to bath/shower, shave and get dressed without difficulty?
  • Do you get any help from other family, friends or neighbours? Would a professional carer, with time to dedicate to these tasks, help you to deal with them more effectively?
  • Are you happy with your existing carers (if applicable)? Is there anything else that they could do to help?

Questions to ask your relative's existing carer/agency

  • Do they feel that the current care plan still meets your relative's requirements?
  • Can they ask the carers who work directly with your relative to provide feedback?
  • Do they have any particular concerns about your relative?
  • If you are unhappy with your relative’s carers, can any problems be rectified or could different carers be employed?
  • If you think your relative’s care needs have changed, is there any additional help that they could provide?

How to get a care needs assessment

If you think that your relative needs additional help and support, and hasn’t had a needs assessment from the local authority, they should get one as soon as possible. Local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of anyone that they think might be eligible for community care services. The needs assessment is free, and will help to identify the care and support that your relative requires.

If your relative has already had a needs assessment, the local authority should carry out an annual review to ensure the care that is being provided remains relevant and useful. But if you think that your relative’s needs have changed significantly, you can ask for an earlier review.

The local authority will only provide care services that are in your relative’s care plan. For this reason, if changes to your relative’s needs are significant (and will require the local authority to spend more money), it's vital to get a review of their needs assessment so that any additional needs are included in their care plan.

More information

Page last reviewed: May 2017
Next review due: October 2019