Everything you need to know about reablement

If you suspected ‘reablement’ wasn’t a real word, you’re absolutely right. Reablement is a mash-up of ‘rehabilitation’ (getting someone back on their feet after an illness or injury) and ‘enablement’ – helping someone to do something.

If you want to find out how reablement can help you or a loved one to remain safe and independent at home, read on for everything you need to know about this service.

What is reablement?

First, it’s important to understand that reablement support is not the same as having a carer, whether that’s someone who pops into your house during the day or who lives with you.

A carer, whether funded by your local council or self-funded, will come in for however long you need care for, with this probably evolving over time as your needs change. Depending on the scope of support, this may mean things like sorting out a meal; getting you up, washed and dressed; getting you ready for bed; or maybe to do some light physiotherapy.

A reablement professional will do some of this, but their role is quite different and will only be for a limited period, as Joe Coogan, director of operations at Essex Cares LTD (ECL), explains. ECL provides care services across Essex, Havering and West Sussex, with a specialisation in reablement.

“Reablement is about supporting someone who perhaps has had a fall, an injury, an illness, or someone who has been in hospital [to] get back to where they were before,” Joe explains.

“If you can’t wash or dress yourself, our team will do that for you. But the plan is to try to help you get back to being independent. On day one, you might be too tired, so that might be the goal for week two. Reablement is all about having goals to work towards. It might be to get to the end of the garden, or to be able to shower again,” Coogan adds.

As the Social Care Institute for Excellence also explains, reablement is all about restoring previous self-care skills and abilities (or relearning them in new ways), to enable people to be as independent as possible for as long as possible in everyday activities.

It is about regaining your ability to do the daily things that matter to you, whether that’s cleaning the house, shopping, or bathing and dressing, rather than having a carer do things for you. There can be a mental element to this, too, such as regaining confidence after surgery or after a fall, or simply feeling safe again around the house or when you go out.

How does reablement work?

A reablement support package will be agreed, commissioned and paid for through your local authority, with funding – in England at least – often coming through the Better Care Fund.

Support will be time-limited, usually for up to six weeks, working to a bespoke plan created with and for you. A reablement team will normally consist of a mix of specialists, often community care assistants, assessors, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. They will all look at different bits of ‘you’ in the context of how to get back to ‘good’.

Depending on your needs, chances are that, initially, reablement is going to mean multiple visits a week, perhaps as many as four calls a day from two professionals. But the aim is that, over time, this will taper down.

Close up of man's leg in a bandage

What happens next?

Whether you’re sorting out your own reablement support or that of a relative, it’s important to understand what happens after your support package ends.

“People need to be discharged out of hospital as soon as possible and as soon as they’re medically fit, otherwise it can cause a whole host of other problems,” highlights Lesley Carter, clinical lead at Age UK.

“Reablement is great for giving people the confidence to go back to the things they were doing before they were unwell. But six weeks is a relatively short time.”

During the six-week reablement programme, your local authority may be able to carry out a financial assessment to gauge whether you are likely to need ongoing care beyond the reablement support, and how much of this may be able to be paid by the council.

Either way, to ensure you have the best chance of retaining your independence at home and that you don’t relapse post-reablement, it can be valuable to have this conversation.

How to access reablement services

Sadly, reablement provision around the country varies, and so there may be an element of ‘postcode lottery’ as to how well-equipped your council is to provide reablement support.

Nevertheless, most councils do provide some level of reablement support. Some will have a dedicated page about their provision on their website, but the best way to find out what’s available is by calling or emailing your local authority’s social care services.

If in hospital, ask the hospital social work team for information. Ward staff, such as the discharge or ward coordinator, should also be able to help you contact the relevant team.

Equally, charities such as Age UK can point you in the right direction. “If people are stuck, especially if caring for someone from afar, phone up our information and advice line on 0800 678 1602. They can put you in contact with your local Age UK, which can signpost you to the right support,” explains Lesley Carter.

The main thing, as ECL’s Coogan highlights, is ensuring you do access what’s available to enable you to retain independence for as long as possible. “Every council will commission their reablement care separately and differently. But any reablement service is better than none, in my opinion,” he states.

Further reading

Additional support at home

Alongside reablement, staying independent is about having peace of mind that you’re not going to be left cold or in the dark if the heating or electricity fails.

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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