Once you and your care providers (such as your family, GP or community health professionals) feel that you need further support, your GP or Community Health Nurse may set you along the path of having a Care Needs Assessment done.
The Care Needs Assessment process will help to guide what further services and supports you can be offered, such as: Home help/ support
Day Centre support
Daily living aids and appliances (such as a Mylo)
Nursing Home Care
And many other supports that can be offered in the community.
The assessment process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, and is a great step for families to take when supporting someone with dementia to live as independently and comfortably as possible.
Who does the assessment?
A healthcare professional, often a Nurse, will carry out the assessment. This is usually a single visit that includes the person being assessed as well as their main care provider with them.
Where is it done?
This can be done at home, or at a hospital or community health centre.
What exactly is it?
The Care Needs Assessment is a simple interview style process looking to determine:
Your ability to carry out the activities of daily living, e.g. bathing, shopping, dressing and moving around
The medical, health and personal social services being provided to you or available to you both at the time of the carrying out of the assessment and generally
The family and community support available to you
Your wishes and preferences
The results of the Care Needs Assessment will be submitted to the HSE in the form of a report, and will then set you along the path to access the care and supports that you need.
How do we prepare?
The best way to prepare is usually to first understand what the assessor will be looking for, and gathering information and evidence that supports what you are saying. You know that feeling when your dishwasher breaks down, but the moment the repair guy arrives it starts working again? So you have to explain the problem with wild charades and desperation to prove that it wasn’t all in your head?
Imagine that happening during a care assessment!
So let’s break down what the care assessment is looking at, and the type of things that you can start gathering and preparing to best explain these.
Storing Your Evidence - using a ‘Data Room’
For family members that are comfortable using digital files, setting up a ‘data room’ is a great way to set up everything you need for a smooth assessment - as well as to support your loved one’s ongoing care.
Google Drive (a free service included with a gmail email account) is one way to do this - details of how to set up and share a google drive file can be found here
Getting into the habit of storing everything online in a single location makes everything much easier to keep safe, share with other carers, and to share with family members and healthcare providers by attaching a document to a quick email, or inviting your healthcare provider to view your data room.
This one sounds self-explanatory, but it’s a good idea to have everything written down in a single place. Full name, date of birth, full address with Eir Code, contact phone numbers, PPS number, medical card numbers, hospital numbers, emails, etc.
During the assessment you’re likely to already be feeling a bit stressed and anxious, having to start off by searching for these things through your phone and through files will just add to your anxiety. Get all of it written out beforehand and move on!
Marital status (are there certificates to show this available?), financial status (pension? How much? From where?), housing status (do they own their home? Is there a mortgage? Who with? How much? Do they rent? Is there a rental agreement? How much is the monthly rent? Utilities? Other costs? - if you start filling a data room with these details now, you’ll thank yourself later.
GP Contact details and the details of any other healthcare provider. Gather up and store any documentation available about the diagnosis received, and prescriptions issued, pharmacy contact details. It’s a good idea to take a photo of a prescription for your data room, or a photo of the bottle / package itself showing the name of the medication and the dosage. This way, even if you forget to bring your loved one’s medications to an appointment, you can still easily access them on your phone via your data room.
Have a detailed list of your loved one’s medications ready for your assessment visit.
This one can be tricky, but also incredibly useful. If you are able, take small videos of the behaviours or difficulties that you want to convey to your Care Needs Assessor as the behaviour and difficulties occur - as it is unlikely that they will be able to see these for themselves during a brief once-off visit.
This can be particularly helpful in situations where a person has a sudden burst of aggression or is displaying unusual behaviours, confusion, memory loss, wandering, anxiety or other issues that seem important for your Assessor to see for themselves. This can also be useful for showing daily care needs, such as if the person is struggling to get up from a chair independently, navigating stairs, changes in the way that they are walking from room to room, if a person is struggling to feed themselves or drink from a glass, or if a person is struggling to prepare a meal for themselves.
It is important to stress that any video recording, even with consent or done with the best of intentions, does not sacrifice a person’s dignity in order to record such evidence. Some things are best explained verbally, such as issues with dressing, toileting or personal care.
Another option is to keep a record of care, such as when others have had to be involved in personal care, meal preparation, feeding, toileting, etc. This can help the Assessor to see a pattern if there is one, and help you to access appropriate resources to help.
Taking short videos of communication and interactions can also be immensely helpful to show to a healthcare provider as again, many of the issues that you may find concerning will not necessarily occur in front of your Assessor.
The Care Needs Assessment is there to help you - so arm yourself with as much information and evidence as possible to help your Assessor find the right supports for your family.