As a healthcare professional, you may already understand how to connect people to social care. However, understanding what support is on offer and how to navigate the system can often be difficult for people with dementia and those who care for them. This article summarises key information to help the person with dementia to connect with social care.
What social care can provide
Social care support can help people with their everyday tasks, and to stay independent at home. It can also help people to manage their dementia and other health conditions.
The person with dementia or their family members might ask you about how to get access to social care. Knowing what social care support is available can help you signpost them to these services. We give examples of the types of services commonly available below:
- Meals on wheels
- Home adaptations such as ramps, stair lifts, grab rails and walk-in showers
- Equipment and household aids such as chairs, toilet seats, and kitchen equipment
- Personal alarms and home security systems such as fall-alert pendants
- Day centres
- Different types of housing options, such as sheltered housing and care homes
You can signpost the person to the NHS website as a useful source of information to understand more about what social care is, and what support is available.
Helping people decide what support is right for them
It can be confusing for people to make sense of what types of social support are available. Some people may not feel they need any help from social care in the early stages of dementia. Others may not know what else there is to help them. By being aware of what social care support is available, you can help people with dementia and their family members to identify services that can help them, and to encourage them to plan ahead and prepare for their future with dementia.
You can also suggest the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line for people with dementia and their family members to speak to someone who can help them make decisions about social care support – 0300 150 3456.
Home adaptations and equipment
Making changes to the home environment and bringing in additional equipment can help people with dementia to live more independently.
Equipment such as devices that give reminders, for example, to take medication, might help people living with dementia with their everyday tasks. These products are also called ‘assistive technology’. They can be purchased from online websites such as the Alzheimer’s Society’s online shop.
Many people living with dementia find it helpful to make some changes to their home. This might include additional adaptations such as hand-rails in the bathroom to help with personal care and bathing. Other adaptations might include installing a walk-in shower, or better lighting. Individuals will need to be assessed by their local council to find out if they are eligible for financial and practical support with making changes to their home.
You can guide people to find out who their local council adult social care service is by using this link.
Start your own dementia toolkit
Living at home is usually the preferred option for many people living with dementia and their family members. Homecare – or domiciliary care – can help people to live at home with support of a paid carer helping them with their everyday tasks, including personal care, domestic tasks, and taking medication. Homecare can also support people to attend medical appointments or support groups in their local community. Some people find their homecare workers to be good company, particularly if they are living alone.
Homecare is flexible. Individuals might only need a care worker for an hour each week, or for several hours each day, or some people might choose to have a live-in carer move into their home.
People might choose to have homecare if:
- They wish to remain living in their own home and it is safe for you to do so
- They need help to continue their daily routines, such as washing, dressing, cooking, or going out in their local community
Some homecare providers have their own websites with information about social care and the support they can provide. Some examples of national organisations are Home Instead , Helping Hands , and Bluebird Care.
You can also guide people with dementia and their family members to the Homecare UK national website which can help them find different providers of homecare support in their local area, and for providers that specialise in dementia care.
Adult day centres can help to improve quality of life for people living with dementia, by supporting them to stay independent and connected to others. Individuals can attend a day centre once a week, or several times a week. Some day centres specialise in supporting people living with dementia, however most will be open to anyone to attend.
A healthcare practitioner such as a GP can refer individuals to attend a day centre, or they can self-refer. Some day centres offer a ‘taster day’ so people can see if they like it before joining.
Age UK is a well-known charity who provide services for older people. Their day centres give older people practical help and opportunities to socialise, and are run by trained staff and volunteers. Activities can include singing, and crafts, and they provide a hot lunch and refreshments throughout the day.
You can guide people to find if there is an Age UK day centre close to where they live:
The Alzheimer’s Society run day centres just for people living with dementia. They can try new hobbies such as gardening and cooking, as well as getting support with anything they might need from staff who are experienced in supporting people affected by dementia. You can guide people to find if there is an Alzheimer’s Society day centre close to where they live.
There may be other independent day services in the person’s local area. The Elderly Accommodation Counsel is an organisation that can help people find local day centres:
Alternative housing options
As dementia progresses, the person may need more support at home, but they may need more support than homecare and/or family can offer. They may also not enjoy living at home, or may feel unsafe or be at risk.You can suggest other housing options, including sheltered housing and supported living schemes, residential care homes, and nursing homes.
We have more information around helping people to make decisions like this in an article on planning for the future: Read Practical support for shared decision-making and planning ahead
It can be difficult for people living with dementia and their families to think about moving home. Conversations approached sensitively, and with someone that they trust can help to make these decisions easier. We have more information on supporting decision making and communication here.
Sheltered housing accommodation has support on-hand to help people live independently. There will also be communal areas and social activities. Usually, a warden or other support staff provide support and 24-hour emergency help, however, support with household tasks and personal care is not usually given. This support needs to be arranged separately through the local authority, or a private care provider. Sheltered housing is not typically inspected for care quality. This option is usually only available to people aged over 55.
Signpost to the Age UK website for more information on sheltered housing.
Supported living, or ‘assisted living’ or ‘extra care housing’, also includes on-site care. Supported living offers more support than sheltered housing, and means that individuals will have their own self-contained home, but staff are usually available 24-hours a day to help with tasks such as personal care and taking medication.
Signpost to the Age UK website for more information on this type of support. They also offer a free advice line where people can discuss their care options – 0800 678 1602. There are options for supported living here.
You can guide people to find more information on sheltered and supported housing options here: Link to article on accessing social care for people living with dementia/family carers
Care homes and nursing homes
As the needs of a person living with dementia change, they may be better able to get the care they need by moving into a care home. They may also need to move into a care home because their personal circumstances change and it may become difficult for them to continue living in their own home. This can be a difficult decision for those affected by dementia to make, however, helping them to be prepared can make this decision easier. You can encourage people with dementia and their family members to read real stories about peoples’ experiences of moving into a care home.
There are two main types of care homes:
- Residential care homes: provide a safe environment where people will receive 24-hour support to meet their daily needs such as personal care and taking medication. They also have daily activities and opportunities for socialising.
- Nursing homes: provide 24-hour support from qualified nurses for people with a higher level of care needs, including medical needs. This might be needed in the short-term when someone is discharged from hospital, or for people with longer-term care needs. Like residential homes, nursing homes also offer opportunities for activities and socialising.
Care homes are run by private business, local authorities, or voluntary or charitable organisations. Many care homes provide both residential and nursing care. Not all care homes can support people living with dementia, however some care homes may specialise in dementia care.
Individuals will need to get a new needs assessment from social services to decide if a care home is the right step for them, followed by a financial assessment. Signpost people to read more about this here.
You can suggest that individuals and their family visit a few different care homes to choose one that is right for them.
We have more information and useful resources to help people find a care home that is right for them: LINK TO ACCESSING SOCIAL CARE (FOR PLWD/FCs)
Social care services, including homecare, day centres and care homes differ in the quality of services they provide. You can guide the person and their family to read CQC reports on individual service providers to help them chose which is right for them.
Providing information on arranging and paying for social care support
Most social care services are means tested and individuals will need an assessment to work out if their local authority will cover their social care costs in full, or help them with paying towards the costs. If they are not eligible for financial support through their local council, they will need to pay for this themself.
There is some support available which is not means tested. This includes some equipment and home adaptations, benefits, help after coming home from hospital, NHS continuing healthcare, and NHS-funded nursing care in a care home.
You can signpost individuals to other useful information we have about managing money for people living with dementia, and financial benefits and support here:– link to article on benefits and care assessment