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What support can you and the people you care for get after leaving hospital

The person you care for may need a variety of special support when they come out of hospital. You may also be worried about how well you can cope without help.
It's therefore important to find out exactly what support you can get - remember, it may be your or the person you are caring for's legal right to get some types of help.
Help may be organised (but not always paid for) by the health service or the local authority social services. If not, you may be able to get help free of charge from an organisation such as a charity or self-help group or you may have to pay for it privately.
Social Security Benefit entitlements may be available to help meet the extra costs of care. If the person leaving hospital requires help with personal care or supervision or they have problems with walking and getting around then they may be entitled to a disability benefit. Claiming either Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance could lead to the carer being able to claim Invalid Care Allowance or having some other entitlement. The hospital may have a special department which can advise further on benefits and help with any form filling.

Health services
The NHS has a duty to pay for a range of services that may be needed by the person you care for. This includes:

  • Rehabilitation work
  • Palliative care - this means providing care which involves the relief of suffering
  • Respite care - this means providing care so that the normal carer can have a rest
  • Specialist health support.

Some health services are provided by the hospital after a patient has gone home (e.g. home visits from a hospital physiotherapist or speech therapist) but most health care is provided by the local health services.
Depending on a person's need, local health support may be provided by a doctor (called a GP), district nurse, health visitor, physiotherapist, community psychiatric nurse, speech therapist, continence adviser, or a Macmillan or Marie Curie nurse.

Social services
The person you care for may be entitled to receive support from the local social services department.
The kinds of help that might be provided include:

  • Practical help at home (e.g. cleaning, shopping, bathing and toileting)
  • Disability support aids and equipment
  • Adaptations to the home
  • Provision of meals at home or elsewhere
  • Residential care
  • Sitting services (i.e. someone sits for short periods with the person you care for)
  • Community alarm (i.e., an alarm button fitted in the home that links to an emergency service).

If the person needs help, a hospital social worker or someone from the local social services department should visit to assess their needs. If you think they should have an assessment and no one has suggested it, contact the hospital social worker or the local social services department. The telephone number of the local social services department will be listed in the telephone book under the name of your local authority.
If the assessment shows the person needs help, the local authority still needs to decide whether or not it can arrange or provide the services that are needed. Unfortunately, if the resources aren't available a service may not be provided, even if the person needs it. Also, some services may be provided for free but others may involve a charge.
Remember that you can also ask to be assessed by social services to see whether you need support as a carer. For further information about carer's assessments.

Charities or voluntary organizations
There are lots of charities and voluntary organisations which offer a variety of help, including:

  • Information and advice
  • Loans and grants
  • Holiday schemes
  • Counselling and befriending
  • Transport.

You may also find that some organisations offer hospital aftercare schemes - this involves providing things like rehabilitation and medical treatment.

Self-help groups
There may be a self-help or support group in your area that you and the person you are caring for may be able to join. You will get to meet people in a similar position to you, get advice and information on problems you are facing, and may even receive direct support.

Private help
Caring for someone or being cared for can be very expensive, so it's important to make sure you get all the free or subsidised help you are entitled to before paying for any private help.

To get private help you can advertise or use an agency that specialises in providing the support you need. Local agencies are listed in the Yellow Pages. Please make sure you check someone's references first - this involves contacting people they have previously worked for to ensure they can do the job properly.

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Updated April 2015