Assessing Your Needs

Assessing your social, psychological and medical needs is the first step in deciding what type of long-term care is most appropriate for you. The most medically successful and personally satisfactory long-term care decisions usually begin with professionally guided assessments of both physical and emotional needs.

Since most of us want to remain in our home if we can, a good first step is to seek professional guidance in answering very important questions you may have such as:

  • How much help will I need to maintain my lifestyle?
  • Who can provide the services I may need?
  • How do I access those services?
  • How much will the services cost?
An assessment can be very beneficial to gaining an objective view of what activities are reasonable considering both physical and mental status. An assessment doesn't just tell us what we need; it will also tell us what we don't need! Both are very important to coordinating a care plan. Because an assessment is the most reliable road map to a successful care plan, you will find that most long-term care providers will require one.

How An Assessment Can Help

A long-term care assessment provides those responsible for your care--you, if you're able, your care providers and your family--with vital information about your overall condition and special needs you may have. It also helps the care managers or care coordinators structure your care plan to the appropriate levels and types of services you need. It includes specific recommendations for any and all care that is seen as medically necessary. Therefore, the assessment typically will include a careful appraisal of your:

  • physical abilities and medical care needs
  • social and emotional needs
  • financial needs and
  • environmental needs
It will also identify the various financial resources that could be made available to pay for the care you need--including your personal funds and insurance, Medicare or Medicaid--along with information on special funding avenues such as community services and public assistance grants. Most of us may not want to deal with the money issues that relate to our care needs or to share our financial situation with others; however, there's little point in designing a care plan that can't be funded. Knowing about your financial structure is important information for your care planner. Also, he or she may be able to guide you to funding options.

Your Assessment Information Resources Checklist

You may want to involve all of your people resources in the assessment procedure:

  • family and friends
  • personal physician
  • any specialists you now see or have seen
  • long-term care professionals who perform the assessment
  • professionals who will provide the services or facilities you are considering

The results of this personal network profile give the care planner and ultimate caregivers a list of resources for regular or occasional help.

Because medical needs often dictate long-term care lifestyle needs, one of the first sources for information will be your physician. He or she will:

  • gather data from any specialists to whom they have referred you in the past
  • put together the medical recommendations portion of your assessment which becomes the essential component in receiving medically necessary services
  • help in forming the basis for any assisted living services needed
Remember, your physician's primary goal is always the diagnosis and treatment of your medical conditions or illnesses, but he or she may also be an important key to the living accommodations that best promote your quality of life.

Your care planner may also depend on other medical and social services professionals for assistance in the preparation of your assessment. If you do not have a primary care or personal physician, your care planner or social services professional can give you recommendations or assign one to you.

The Care Plan

Once the assessment is complete, a care manager can make recommendations that form the foundation for your care plan. The care plan designates:

  • the appropriate services/facilities you may need
  • when the care is to begin
  • how often the services are to be performed
The goals that are set forth in the care plan should be realistic for comfortable day-to-day living or, in the case of an illness, sufficient to enable you to return to health. If a chronic condition is involved, the care plan can include maintenance needs.

The Care Manager or Care Coordinator

A care manager--often referred to as a care coordinator--may be a health professional appointed for you from a private assessment organization or a nurse or social worker provided through public sources. The care manager or coordinator may be in charge of conducting the assessment, acting as the care planner and may also conduct the required visits to the client's home to assess how well he or she is managing day-to-day routine functions. These visits are critical to an accurate assessment of self-care capabilities. Once care is in place, it is also the care manager or coordinator who provides reassessment visits and recommends adjustments to the care plan. Should the care plans and other long-term care stress factors affect you or your family and friends as caregivers, care managers or coordinators can be helpful in keeping the ball in play as well as smoothing troubled waters. And, when a patient's family does not live nearby, care managers or coordinators can provide a vital link between family members.