Carer's assessments in Northern Ireland

Anyone who cares for a person with dementia is entitled to an assessment of their needs as a carer. It should identify what your needs are, and work out what type of support would meet your needs.

Why do you need a carer's assessment?

As a carer, the impact of dementia on your daily life can be challenging, and everyone needs support from time to time. Accessing care for yourself can help you to maintain your own health and wellbeing and carry on caring for the person with dementia.

For more information see Carers: looking after yourself and Caring for a person with dementia: A practical guide.

The Single assessment tool contains a carer’s assessment. This means that a carer’s assessment is often done at the same time as an assessment for the person with dementia. This can be helpful, as your needs might be best met by support that is provided to the person you care for. For example, if respite care is provided to the person with dementia, this allows you both to have a break. 

If the person you care for refuses an assessment, or does not want care or support, you can still have a carer’s assessment. 

Getting a carer’s assessment 

You can ask for a carer’s assessment directly from your local HSC trust’s social services department. This department may be called different things in different areas – for example, ‘adult services’. You can find their contact details: 

  • online 
  • at the GP surgery 
  • at the local library. 

There are other ways this may be arranged: 

  • as part of an assessment of need for the person you care for
  • a referral from a health or social care professional 
  • a referral from a friend or relative. 

If someone makes the referral for you as a carer, they must have your consent. For a carer’s assessment to be carried out, you must agree to it. 

What to expect from a carer's assessment

What to expect from a carer’s assessment depends on how it has been arranged. 
The assessment will usually be carried out by a social worker or care coordinator. It may involve other health professionals, such as a GP, but the social worker will arrange this if it is needed.

If the carer’s assessment is carried out at the same time as the assessment of the person with dementia, it is likely to be done in the home of the person with dementia.

The carer’s assessment may take place separately from the assessment of the person with dementia, or the person with dementia may not be having an assessment themselves. In this case, the assessment should take place somewhere that is convenient for you, for example in your own home. 

You will have the opportunity to explain what you do as a carer, and also what help and support you would like.

The carer's assessment involves the following questions: 

  • how long you have been providing care and support 
  • when you provide care and support and how much you provide per week 
  • whether you assist with the person’s finances and if you have any legal authority, for example an Enduring power of attorney (EPA) 
  • whether there have been times you have been unable to fulfil your caring role 
  • whether anyone in the family shares the caring role with you 
  • whether there is a need to consider contingency care (if something was to happen to you, or you were unable to provide care for some reason, whether care and support will need to be provided and who can do this) 
  • whether your finances have been affected due to caring and if you are claiming anything you are entitled to, for example carers allowance 
  • your own health, including your physical and mental health and wellbeing 
  • any health problems that have been caused by or made worse by caring 
  • how you view your role, including what you find positive and most difficult and any concerns you have about the future. 

Sometimes you may be asked to give this information through a self assessment questionnaire. You can ask the local HSC trust for support filling this out if you need it. Some local charities may also help with this.

Tips for people having a carer's assessment 

If you are going to have a carer’s assessment, there are a few things you can do beforehand. It might seem like a lot to prepare, but even thinking about some of the details listed below will help you to get more from the assessment. 

  • Make a note of what you want from the assessment. For example, that you want to stay in your job, or you want your relative to live nearer to you so that you can give care more easily. 
  • Write a list of the care and support that you give the person, including  when, where and for how long. Include any time that you might spend checking that things are OK or being ‘on call’ in case of problems, or  because you are worried. 
  • Think about what care and support you can continue to provide. You should not feel pressured into providing care that you are not willing or able to give. 
  • Keep a diary for a few weeks with all the tasks that you do to support the person – for example, making several bus journeys, preparing their meals or doing a daily shop. 
  • Make a note of how your caring role may be difficult at times – possibly making you feel irritable, stressed, depressed, tearful or alone. 
  • Take note of the things that you are unable to do as a result of caring, for example cleaning your home, your childcare responsibilities, taking on extra hours at work or maintaining social activities and seeing your friends. 
  • Think about and list what support would help you. This may be someone else providing care temporarily for the person so you can have a break, or it could be some specific help for you, such as equipment or training.  For example, driving lessons could mean you would no longer need to use public transport. 
  • Think about what support you may need in the future as the person’s condition gets worse. 
  • If you’d feel more comfortable, ask for a separate carer’s assessment without the person you care for being present. Be open and honest. This may be difficult, but for the assessment to work the person carrying out the assessment needs to understand your situation.

Getting support from the HSC trust for carers 

Once an assessment has been completed, the HSC trust will decide if it will pay for care and support for you. They will consider whether you are eligible and also your financial situation. For more information on the financial assessment see Financial assessments in Northern Ireland or Paying for care and support in Northern Ireland

Some types of support for carers, such as respite care, are given directly to the person with dementia (see Care plans). For this to happen the person will then need to be assessed to work out whether they are eligible for services. 

If you are not satisfied with the way an assessment was done, or with the outcome of an assessment, you can make a complaint. You will need to explain why you are not satisfied, your reasons and what outcome you are seeking.