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How to identify that care needs have changed

We provide a checklist of questions to ask your loved one and their carers, if you have concerns that their care needs have changed.
4 min read
In this article
Signs that your loved one might be struggling Talking about their needs Checklist: is additional care needed?
How to get a care needs assessment

Signs that your loved one 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 friend or relative, keep an eye out for 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?
  • Do they generally look clean and well looked-after? If not, they might be struggling with personal care or household tasks.
  • Are they 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 they are eating regular meals? Does it look as if they’ve been shopping lately? Is there food in the cupboards and in the fridge, and is it within its use-by date?
  • 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?

Talking about their needs

If you suspect that your loved one’s care needs have changed, the first step is to talk to them. Sit down with them and chat about how they’re 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 loved one isn’t currently receiving care, ask if there is anything that they need help with or what might make their life easier. If they’re 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 other 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 loved one 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’re 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:

  • How are you coping with personal care, housework and food shopping?
  • 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, experienced 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 the existing carer/agency:

  • Do they feel that the current care plan still meets your loved one’s requirements?
  • Can they ask the carers who work directly with your friend or relative to provide feedback?
  • Do they have any particular concerns?
  • If you’re unhappy with the carers, can any problems be rectified or could different carers be employed?
  • If you think your loved one’s care needs have changed, is there any additional help that they could provide?
Use our directory to find local care homes, home care agencies and carer support services across the UK.

How to get a care needs assessment

If you think that your loved one needs additional help and support, and hasn’t had a needs assessment from the local authority, arrange for one to take place 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 loved one requires.


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


The local authority will only provide care services that are specified in the care plan. For this reason, if care needs change significantly (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.

Further reading

Why might care needs change?

We recommend ‘future proofing’ care plans and show how to deal with a gradual or sudden decline in mental or ...

Last updated: 25 Apr 2019