Home care for older people: How to find the help you need

As you get older, everyday tasks around the home may start to become more challenging. But that doesn’t mean you have to face things alone.

In order to stay in your home as long as possible, you can utilise a range of services available that offer help with tasks such as housework or personal care. Read on to find out what’s available.

What is home care?

Home care services enable you to look after yourself and your home, so that you can stay living independently for longer. 

There are many home care services available, depending on the type of help you need, whether that’s home carers or a personal assistant. These services can help with tasks such as:

  • Help getting in and out of bed
  • Washing assistance
  • Assistance when preparing meals
  • Housework help, such as with cleaning
  • Home adaptation help, such as fitting equipment such as stairlifts
  • Taking trips out or going to a day centre

Home care offers help without long-term commitment. For example, you may just need help with everyday tasks while you’re recovering from surgery or from illness. When you’re feeling better, you may decide that you no longer need the extra help.

How to access home care

Your local authority will decide whether you are eligible for home care services, usually via arranging a care needs assessment. This is free of charge, and you are entitled to this regardless of your income and savings.

If you’re eligible for support, you’ll receive a care plan setting out what needs you have and what help you could get.

If you don’t meet the criteria for support, your local council can offer advice and information about the other options available.

How much does home care cost?

The cost of home care can vary, depending on which services you use. Before the council charges you for the services provided, they must work out how much you can afford. 

Once you’ve received your care needs assessment, you’ll also receive a financial assessment to decide if you’re entitled to help with the cost of your care. This is also sometimes known as a ‘means test’, and is where your local council will ask about your finances and income to work out how much you can contribute to your care.

Age UK states that when the council is working out how much you can be charged, they must make sure you’re left with a minimum level of income for daily costs, known as your ‘Minimum Income Guarantee’ (MIG). You must also be left with money for housing-related costs, such as rent.

Other ways to access home care

If you’re eligible for financial support, you can also find and arrange your own care with direct payments. These are regular payments paid by the council directly to you – or to a trusted friend or family member – to spend on services listed in your care plan to meet your needs. These payments are one way of spending your personal budget, which is allocated to paying for your care and support. 

If arranging home care for yourself, it’s important that you make sure that the provider you choose is appropriately accredited. You can find appropriate homecare through:

  • Private agencies – they can help with tasks such as housework, shopping and personal care, but they must be registered with the Care Quality Commission.
  • The Homecare Association – they can provide details of home care providers that follow its code of practice.
  • Your local council’s adult social services department – they should be able to provide you with details of approved private care agencies.
  • The NHS website – here you can find out more information about receiving help at home from a paid carer.
  • Friends and family – they may have recommendations of care providers they’ve used.

If you’re just looking for help with tasks such as housework, gardening or shopping – rather than personal care – you can contact your local Age UK or search the Royal Voluntary Service to find help in your local area.

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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