Home care can be the very best option… but beware of the pitfalls

Home care can be the very best option… but beware of the pitfalls

More people than ever before are being supported in later life in their own home, rather than going into residential or nursing care. But getting the right person to look after you can be complex and costly, warns Deborah Stone of advice website for older people and their families.

One of the biggest success stories in the care system in recent years has been enabling ever greater numbers of older people to remain living in their own home rather than going into residential or nursing care. The statistics show that whereas the 65+ population in the UK grew by 11% between 2001 and 2011, the numbers living in residential or nursing care edged up by just 0.3%.

The Government has actively encouraged and enabled this process, not least by creating the direct payments scheme, which allows an elderly person and their family to choose how their care budget is spent.

“The savings for individuals, their families and to the taxpayer are enormous,” says Deborah Stone, of advice website www.myageingparent.com.  “It also allows the person themselves to stay within their own community, close to their informal support network. However, anyone going down this route really needs to have a very firm handle on their responsibilities as well the potential pitfalls. While many families try to find a carer for a parent whose needs are becoming more complex – perhaps on an hourly, or even full-time live-in basis, few recognise the complexity of identifying the right carer. They don’t really understand the potential difficulties ahead, from hiring through to managing a carer.”

But there is one overriding factor that every family appointing their own carer should consider: the quality of the individual themselves, along with their honesty and reliability.

“If you do decide to appoint your own carer or carers, do thoroughly vet their record and double check their references – don’t simply accept a photocopied sheet,” warns Deborah.

“While the vast majority of carers will be motivated and professional, you will get some who are not. An alternative, of course, is to appoint an agency and many people successfully do this.  But, again, caution is recommended. They really should be a CQC (Care Quality Commission) registered agency, meaning the results of their annual checks are available online.  Equally, you need to check that they recruit and train their personnel carefully, and pay them a good wage.

“The care sector is beset by low-pay, low skill employers – and that can only lead to some staff becoming demotivated and cutting corners… not someone you would want to be looking after a frail or vulnerable loved one.”

Five key things to consider when hiring a carer

There are five other key factors which everyone should take into consideration when going down the home care route:

  1. When you organise home care, you actually become an employer. This means you will need to create an employment contract and pay salary, tax and National Insurance, sick pay and holiday pay, as well as taking out public liability insurance.
  2. People organising care themselves also have the responsibility for checking eligibility to work in the UK and conducting a Disclosure and Disbarring Service check (DBS), which replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and ensures any potential carer is not disbarred from care work and has no unspent criminal convictions.
  3. Employers of carers are also responsible for ensuring the carer’s training remains up to date. This may mean providing cover while your carer updates their skills.
  4. Carers need clear guidelines, including documentation and agreed processes. They should record medication taken, follow care plans and may need dietary guidance or outlines for regular exercise, physio or other treatments which fit into the daily life of the person they are caring for.
  5. Finally, the employer of a carer needs to have a plan for what happens if their chosen carer falls ill or is unable to work for other reasons. A contingency for emergency cover should definitely be built into the budget for care.