Home care — also known as day care, domiciliary care or visiting care, is the provision of care at home for the elderly. This can be as little as a short visit once a week, to set hours every day, to overnight care. Home carers can support your relative in a range of ways that will help them to remain happy, safe and independent at home.
A home carer’s duties will be tailored to your relative’s needs. They may need specific help with personal tasks such as washing themselves, taking medication or getting in or out of bed. Carers can also help with preparing meals and keeping the house clean. If you need special medical support, you can hire carers trained to look after individuals with specific conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s.
A home carer can also provide companionship to those in need of more human contact and interaction.
What does a home carer do?
A home carer for the elderly can provide flexible support with all of your relative’s needs. Together, you can create a personalised plan for whatever it is that they need support with.
We have listed some of the main duties of a home carer below, but this list is not exhaustive.
Key duties of a home carer
Assisting with personal care
A home carer for the elderly can assist with all aspects of personal care including dressing and undressing, washing, oral hygiene, and using the toilet.
Preparing and cooking meals
Your relative's home carer can prepare and cook meals, as well as help them to eat. You or your relative can discuss their food preferences with their carer.
Home carers can pick up grocery shopping for your relative and bring it to the house. You will probably need to develop a system of expensing groceries and other items bought for your relative - or the agency or provider you choose will have their own system.
One of the main duties of a home carer is to oversee taking medication. They can ensure that your relative is taking the right medication at the right time of the day, and remind them what they need to take when the carer has left.
A home carer can use some of their time to do housework. This can be important if your relative finds doing housework difficult.
Providing companionship is one of the key duties of a home carer. They are selected for being, and trained to be, friendly and kind to the people that they are caring for.
They will make an effort to get to know your relative and learn about their interests.
Helping with mobility
Home carers can assist with getting in and out of the house for people with mobility problems. They are trained in safe methods of supporting people who need help with their mobility.
If your relative can no longer look after their garden, a home carer can help to keep it tidy.
Most older people prefer to remain living in their own home. However, there might come a time when they need round-the-clock care and support. Our list of 12 of the Best Live-in Care Providers and Agencies, will help guide you through the help available.
How often can a home carer visit?
Home carers can visit your relative as little or as often as your relative needs them: from dropping-in a few times a week, to a few hours every day, or even providing overnight care.
The cost of in-home elderly care might be a contributory factor to consider. In the first instance, we suggest you make a plan for how many hours you would like a carer to visit your relative each week. This is a good starting point when starting to plan and budget for ongoing care. Your relative may be eligible for care funding that can help to cover the costs of care. If they are not eligible for financial support, you will need to self-fund their care. Take a look at our advice on self-funding.
Can home carers stay overnight?
Most home care agencies and providers do have the option of overnight care. Overnight care is often referred to as ‘waking nights’ care. This may be appropriate on a short-term basis for a person who needs medication or to change position in the night, perhaps as a consequence of a recent operation. Waking nights care can also ease the transition back home for a person who has recently been in hospital.
If your relative needs overnight care on a daily basis, then they may be better suited to round-the-clock live-in care. Find out more about what a live-in carer can do.
Arranging home care
There are two main options when hiring a home carer. To do so through a provider/agency or to hire a carer privately. They both have their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Arranging home care through a provider or agency
Care providers and agencies can help you find a home carer and will take out a lot of the leg work. In some cases they will manage the care themselves, and in some cases they will act as an introducer between yourself and a self-employed carer. An advantage of using a provider or agency is that they will have vetted and trained the carers that they provide you with.
Because home carers from providers and agencies provide a flexible amount of support for different people each week, your relative may be assigned more than one carer. They will usually operate on a rotation basis. Agencies and providers that arrange your relative’s carers will try to ensure your relative sees the same few familiar faces, and they should be trained in a consistent style to ease this transition.
Arranging home care privately
Some people choose to hire a home carer privately, rather than through a provider or agency. Hiring a carer privately can have the advantage of your relative having just one familiar face that knows them well. There is also a growing use of apps and technology for managing carers which can help you to keep on top of your relative’s care.
However, when you hire a home carer privately, you also have to think about arranging sick and holiday cover for the carer; this would be taken care of by an agency carer. You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a carer privately from our guide on how to recruit and manage a carer privately.
Specialist home care
Care agencies and providers offer specialist home care services for people living with medical conditions such dementia, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. Specialist home carers for the elderly are trained in providing care for people with complex and serious conditions.
Elderly people living with dementia can often benefit from specialist in-home day care. Specialist carers are very experienced at assisting people with dementia, and are well-equipped to provide dementia support. They are trained in how to communicate with someone with dementia, including when they are agitated or confused.
A home carer can also help to keep good notes on how a person with dementia’s condition is changing — which makes it easier to spot when they may need more help.
What do home carers not do?
Though home carers can help with most tasks, non-specialist carers are not expected to provide nursing care. This means that if your elderly relative needs in-home nursing care for more complex medical conditions, or requires their carer to assist with ventilation, then you should be looking for specialist nursing visiting care.
It is essential to make clear the full extent of your relative’s needs to the care provider before creating a care plan. This ensures that you will be provided with in-home elderly care that can meet all of your relative’s care needs. There are a number of key questions to ask when speaking to home care services about their care provision.
If your relative has severe and complex care needs, then they may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding. This is a package of care that is organised and funded solely by the NHS, including care that is delivered at home.