Drawing on recent guidelines and research this clinical review presents recent knowledge and practice on assessing and helping older carers. The review has sections on: how carers should be identified; how a carer assessment should be undertaken; useful interventions to support carers; and the major challenges facing clinicians regarding assessment. Short case scenarios are used to illustrate the issues.
Identifying carers is important because many do not recognise themselves as such, and care responsibilities can affect their health and financial and social aspects of their lives
Comprehensive carer assessment may not be feasible but doctors can identify carers, briefly assess their needs, develop a care plan in collaboration with the carer, and refer where needed
Key areas to ask about include physical and mental health needs of the carer and care recipient, information needs, financial status, levels of carer burden and stress, and the positive aspects of caring
Asking the question “Overall how burdened do you feel?” is a useful, quick way to assess carer distress
Provide specific interventions to carers where indicated, including education, information, counselling, and support
To help the carer, provide the care recipient with specific interventions, including regular service provision, aids and equipment, and respite care
Monitor carer on an ongoing basis and provide support after residential placement or bereavement