Hiring a carer explained
In an ideal world we’d have the time, the necessary skills – and the patience – to look after our parents as they get older. But for many, this just isn’t a possibility, yet we still want the best for them.
Hiring a carer could be the answer to ensure your Mum or Dad get the help they need, allowing them to remain living independently in the their own home.
When is the right time to hire a carer?
You might have noticed a change in your parent’s health, fitness or mobility. Or it could be that you have been caring for them yourself, but now need a helping hand.
If you agree with these three indicators, then now is the time to hire a carer – don’t wait.
- They are struggling to do the things they used to, like cleaning the house, shopping, cooking and getting themselves washed and dressed.
- Despite these struggles they want to stay in their home.
- Their home is safe, or there’s potential for some adaptations. Our guide to adapting the home will give you lots of advice and improvement ideas.
We’ve also created a ‘Do your elderly parents need help’ checklist and practical guide to support you further.
What is homecare and home help?
When you start your search to find the right carer, you’ll find that caring for the elderly at home is called different things: homecare, domiciliary care or sometimes home help. Don’t worry, let us explain:
- Homecare assistance and domiciliary care is help associated with household tasks and personal care. Things like getting out of bed, washing, trips to the loo, preparing meals, taking medication at the right time, picking up prescriptions and doing the shopping.
- Home help for the elderly is support with the day to day tasks, like cleaning, washing up and helping with the laundry.
What to consider when employing a carer privately
Firstly, make a comprehensive list of what assistance and support is required and work out how many hours a day/week they will need. It’s key to be realistic at this stage and know what you are looking for in a person.
It’s a good idea to put your expectations in writing so you, your parent, and the carer understand what is expected.
Getting the right carer
You will need to advertise for someone trained to handle the care needed, create a shortlist from the replies, interview them and select the carer yourselves.
Don’t rush the process, give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to interview several people. You can advertise in magazines such as The Lady, or locally in newspapers, perhaps parish magazines or other local publications.
If your parent needs help most days, even if this is just for a couple of hours each day, you will need to hire a second carer to cover times when the main carer takes holiday or is off sick.
And when they do start their role as carer, be patient. It may seem like an invasion at first, but when you hire the right person, hopefully in time they will become wonderful companions.
Mum hated having someone in HER kitchen. Even though Mum could no longer really cook, it was an admission of failure that she could no longer cope as well as an invasion of her personal fiefdom at home. It never really improved unfortunately.
Becoming an employer
When you hire a carer you, or your relative, will become an employer. This means that you will have to register with HMRC as an employer, operate PAYE, pay National Insurance and statutory sicy pay (SSP) and obtain employer’s liability insurance.
You’ll need to carry out all background checks, including taking up references as well as carrying out a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS) and immigration status.
If this sounds like too much work or you’re not confident getting it right, there are payroll agencies you can pay to assist with the checks and help you with the salary, NI etc.
Take into consideration that you will still need to pay the carer even if your parent has to go into hospital or goes on holiday. And remember that they are entitled to paid holiday, breaks and in some instances, sick pay.
Gut instincts matter
It’s not all about checks, references and skillsets. Hire someone who genuinely cares and is someone you can trust. Trusting someone to be in your parent’s house, expecially if they live alone and you do not live nearby is crucial.
Don’t be afraid to say no if someone doesn’t feel like a good fit. And if things don’t work out with the carer, take immediate action and start the process again.
The cost of hiring a carer
The cost of a private carer is on average around £18 – £20 per hour if you are paying direct and not through an agency.
The local authority can contribute to the cost and arrange the homecare if your parent or relative is eligible.
Our article on Local Authority Care and Financial assessments will provide you with extra information concerning the role of the council and their duty towards elderly care.
Advantages of choosing your own carer
When hiring your own private carer, you get to choose the carer best suited to your parent’s needs. This also makes it easier for a trusting relationship to develop.
The help is flexible where you decide the hours. The care can also be temporary, for example, after an injury or illness.
An added bonus for having one main carer is if you want them to drive a car belonging to a family member it’s much easier to have them as a named driver on the insurance.
Using a Homecare Agency
If you aren’t able to undertake the planning, organising and paperwork to hire a private carer then you can always consider care provided through a Homecare Agency.
To find more information about this head over to our Employing a Care Agency page.
What does live-in care involve?
If the level of care your parent needs requires them to have more than just someone visiting for a few hours a day, it soulds like they might benefit from round-the-clock live-in care.
Many dedicated live-in carers are trained to perform specialist medical care and offer dietary support too in addition to helping with personal care, keeping on top of the housework and even walking a much-loved dog.
But the main plus is the companionship; your mum or dad will always eat with someone, they can strike up a conversation anytime, go for a stroll or just sit and watch their favourite tv programme without being alone.
Preparing space for a live-in carer does not have to be complicated, just think what you’d do if a guest was coming to stay. They’ll need a furnished room of their own to sleep and relax in, and use of a bathroom
What to do when a live-in carer takes a break?
Over the course of a week, the live-in carer is entitled to take 14 hours’ worth of breaks. How this works can be agreed between yourselves, but usually the carer will take a couple of hours off every day.
The only time this continual care is considerably disrupted is when the carer takes time off or is unwell. If you have arranged live-in care through an agency, they can send another temporarily, but if you have arranged the care privately you will have to make alternative arrangements or take time out to look after your parent personally.
Some agencies recruit carers from overseas, such as South Africa or The Phillippines. They may work on rotation, with three weeks on, and then a fortnight off to enable them to return home.
Other options to consider
The majority of people needing care are able to remain in their own homes. If you’re not quite ready for full blown care, then there are some other options you might consider:
Hiring an au pair – or a student
If your Mum or Dad doesn’t need assistance with personal care, would benefit from some domestic help, appreciate some company and has a spare room, it may be worth considering getting an au pair, or finding a student.
An au pair is someone who comes to this country with a good grasp of the language but wishes to improve their English. To do this, they live in someone’s home and carry out domestic tasks around the house.
For 30 hours a week an au pair is expected to be paid at least £85 or around £70 for 20 hours. As they are not classed as employees, au pairs do not get statutory sick pay and are not paid the minimum wage.
Bespoke care or companionship
There are other useful organisations such as Universal Aunts or Country Cousins, who provide bespoke care in the shape of live in or live out companions, carers, drivers, cooks and homecare assistants. Country Cousins are even able to provide Dementia care.
Having the conversations
It can be nigh on impossible to get your parents to agree to help and care at home. Sometimes a crisis – such as a fall – makes the conversation redundant as care becomes an inevitability. You may have to start small, build up trust and increase the amount of care over time. Good luck!
Do you have any advice or experience you would like to share about hiring carer? Let us know at the Age Space Forum