Legislation places an onus on local authorities to be aware of care needs in their locality and to prevent and reduce care and support needs. The existing literature overlooksostensibly ‘healthy’ and/or non-users of specific services, non-health services and informal assistance and therefore inadequately explains what happens before or instead of individuals seeking services. We sought to address these gaps by exploring older adults’ accounts of seeking assistance in later life.
We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 40 adults aged 68-95. We invited participants to discuss any type of support, intervention, or service provision, whether medical, social, family-provided, paid or unpaid.
This paper reports older people’s accounts of how they evaluated their need for assistance. We found that the people in our sample engaged in a recursive process, evaluatingtheir needs on an issue-by-issue basis. Participants’ progression through this process hinged on four factors: their acknowledgement of decline; the perceived impact of decline on their usual activities and independence; their preparedness to be a recipient of assistance; and, the opportunity to assert their need. In lieu of seeking assistance, participants engaged in self-management, but also received unsolicited or emergency assistance.
Older people’s adaptations to change and attempts to meet their needs without assistance mean that they do not present to services, limiting the local authority’s knowledge of their needs and ability to plan appropriate services. Our findings offer four stages for policymakers, service providers and carers to target to address the uptake of assistance.