It’s well known that the number of elderly people in the UK is increasing at a rapid rate thanks to better healthcare helping people to live longer. In some parts of the UK, as much as 30% of the local population is over the age of 65. With this increasingly aged population comes an increase in the demand for care services at all different levels and for a wide variety of needs.
Some older people may simply need help getting dressed and washed. Other people may require help with mobility problems and administering medication, while others may need nursing care and support for serious medical conditions. So clearly there is no “one size fits all” approach to elderly social care services because some needs are very complex but some are relatively simple.
So, what is the solution to finding the right senior care?
The solution is finding the right help for each individual: for some that may be a nursing home, a residential care home or a full-time live-in carer. But for many older people their care needs are not so complex and some help with personal care or preparing meals are may be all they need. In cases such as these the solution may be domiciliary care.
What Is Domiciliary Care?
Domiciliary care is where a professional carer visits the home of an elderly person to provide the help they need on a regular basis. This could be a daily or twice daily visit for anything from one hour to several hours or indeed full time live-in care. It could, alternatively, be just a short visit every other day if that is appropriate. Domiciliary care helps older people remain in their own home with a measure of independence but with assistance when required. A carer provides services as required to keep an older person safe, comfortable and independent at home from supporting low level needs through to very complex needs (if they are regulated to do so).
What Are The Advantages of Domiciliary Care?
Domiciliary care offers a very practical solution to older people (and their families) who want to, and are able to, remain in their own home with some professional support with everyday tasks. This could include help with keeping the house clean and tidy, hoovering, making beds and doing the washing and ironing are typical areas where older people value some help. But gardening and looking after pets are also services that can be provided if required. There are other less obvious benefits too. For instance they can provide human contact and companionship for people who have become isolated from their community, perhaps because of mobility issues making it difficult for them to get out and about in the way they used to. Carers can also be very good at encouraging people to try and make the most of the mobility they do have – friendly yet sympathetic support to get up and about a bit more is always welcome.
Here are some more of the advantages of receiving domiciliary care:
Knowing that a carer will be visiting or living with an elderly person at home on a regular basis means they can feel safer in their own home knowing a familiar and trusted person will be visiting/readily available frequently.
Some form of independence is very precious when people get older. Even if an older person cannot do everything they used to they will value those things that make them feel they are not totally dependent on another person. Care at home helps a person continue to live independently and with dignity for as long as possible because their carer will have the time to focus on helping them stay mobile in and out of their home. The carer may also be able to help them to attend social events so they can remain an involved part of their community.
It can become difficult for elderly people to prepare nutritious food for themselves, especially as appetite and nutritional needs change as people get older. The sorts of meals they may have eaten in their younger days may not be quite what they need now for a healthy life. Shockingly, over 1 million elderly people in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. A domiciliary carer can ensure that their client eats enough, but not too much, and that what they eat is healthy and provides the right balance of nutrients required in older age.
Carers are trained to provide personal care in a courteous and considerate way so helping a person to maintain good personal hygiene and appearance. Assistance with dressing, combing and styling hair are all important aspects of the services they provide to ensure their client feels and looks as good as they possibly can.
Help With Pets
If you have a pet that you need help looking after then there are some carers who can help with this. It may simply be taking your dog for a walk, feeding your cat or taking them to vets appointments. Well-cared for pets that may have been companions for many years are an important factor in the well-being of many older people.
Helping Couples Stay Together
Sometimes one person requires care but their partner or spouse is unable to provide the care they need because they are too frail and elderly themselves. This is particularly true when one person has mobility problems but their partner is simply not strong enough to help. This doesn’t mean the couple have to be parted because regular domiciliary care or live-in care may be all that is needed to improve the quality of life for both people in the couple. A domiciliary carer can help to get someone out of bed each morning and return to help them in to bed at the end of the day or be there all day to support a couples around the clock needs.
Companionship For Those Living Alone
More than 2 million older people live alone here in the UK and as many as 50% of those can go a whole month without speaking to friends or family. Domiciliary care is not a replacement for contact with friends and family but it can help combat total isolation and loneliness by providing a friendly face to talk to on a regular basis.
When you receive care in your own home your carer is totally dedicated to your care needs while with you. This is very different from a care home where one carer may be responsible for several other people at the same time. The advantage of this is that you can you can build a more personal relationship with your carer. They will understand your needs better and you will grow to trust them.
Less Stress and Anxiety For You
Should an older person have to leave their home and move in to a care facility this entails reducing a lifetime’s worth of possessions to just those few that will fit into a single room the size of a typical hotel room. Apart from being sheer hard work this also creates stress and anxiety. In addition, there will be a re-adjustment period getting used to a new environment and many new people.
Opting for domiciliary care means no change in environment and only the one carer to get to know. This is very different from the large number of carers on various shifts at a care home not to mention all of the other residents. All of these new faces can be overwhelming for anyone let alone a frail, vulnerable person.
Peace of Mind for Family Members
Of course it is important for family members to have the certainty that comes from knowing a loved one has the help they need.
Close family members will always worry about their aging relatives who have started to become less able to look after themselves. But often family members don’t live nearby and have work and family commitments. This means they cannot always help when they would like to, which just adds another burden of worry.
Having a domiciliary care worker can, therefore, relieve stress and anxiety for family members by providing the comfort that help is always at hand.
Less Expensive Than a Care Home
When you have domiciliary care at home for just a few hours a day it is much less expensive than the cost of a place in a care home.
What Are the Disadvantages of Domiciliary Care?
There are very few disadvantages to having domiciliary care in your own home but as with almost anything in life there can be some downsides.
Not Getting Help at Your Preferred Time
When you only have care for a few hours each day the chances are your carer also cares for someone else in the same situation as you. This means there may be timetabling conflicts over morning and evening routines and also at meal times. You may need to get into the habit of getting up earlier or later, going to bed earlier or later and eating your meals at different times. But a good domiciliary care provider will always work hard to provide not only the best care but care at a time that suits you – just be prepared to be a little bit flexible about timings, or when the time comes, have your own dedicated live-in carer
Long Hours Alone
Even though visiting domiciliary care can be enormously helpful in preventing loneliness and isolation there will still be many hours in the day when the elderly person could be alone if they live alone and find it difficult to get out of the house on their own. This can be an issue for people only receiving domiciliary care for a few hours each day but has even been known to be an issue for those in care homes.
One solution to this common problem is to opt for live-in care where a professional carer lives with you in your home. That said domiciliary care still provides some companionship and emotional support and it’s better to have someone to talk to and laugh with for at least part of the day than not at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are considering domiciliary care (or any form of care for the elderly) for yourself or a beloved family member you are bound to feel anxious and have lots of questions that will need answering to put your mind at rest. It can be a major change in someone’s life to start having care but it is much more likely to be a success if you research your options thoroughly so you can decide which form of care would be most suitable.
It is worth understanding what your actual care needs are first because these can vary widely and will determine the care you need and the best form of carer to meet those needs. You can do this by talking to your GP in the first instance and then arranging a care assessment.
Once that’s done you will be able to talk to care providers in concrete terms knowing what sort of care you need. It is otherwise very difficult to get a good idea of what is available to you.
You will also need to consider the financial situation – for instance, will you have to fund your own care and, if so, what can you expect it to cost? Or will there be some financial help available from the government and, if so, how do you go about claiming it?
Costs will, clearly, depend on the number of hours each day that you have domiciliary care but also the specific type of help you need This is important if you have certain medical conditions that will require the involvement of medical professionals to oversee certain aspects of your care. Take a look at our Care Funding Guidance booklet for more information about paying for care.
Here is a list of common questions you might want to ask about domiciliary care:
- Will the same carer attend every day?
- Will the carer always attend at the same time each day?
- What happens when the regular carer is ill or on holiday? Is cover provided?
- Can I meet the carer before they start providing care?
- Are the carers insured?
- What are the standard services the carers provide?
- Are their additional services that may cost extra?
- Can the carer drive me to appointments?
- Can the carer help with my medication?
- Can the carer help look after my dog/cat?
- Can a carer help with diet restrictions because of conditions such as diabetes?
- Can a carer help with a catheter, stoma, incontinence?
- Are the carers local to my area?
The more questions you ask, the better informed you will be about all aspects of domiciliary care. This will help you make the right decision for yourself or your family member.
Services Provided By A Domiciliary Care Worker
Domiciliary care is a rewarding role for those delivering the care because it has a direct and positive impact on the life of an older person. The carer is helping a person remain in their own home for as long as possible and that is often the single most important factor that helps older people to maintain a good sense of well-being. After all who would want to willingly leave the home they have probably lived in for many years if not decades to move to a single room in a care home?
Who would want to swap familiar surroundings, a favourite comfy armchair and a cherished garden for impersonal, institutionalised surroundings? The answer, not surprisingly, is that very few people willingly choose to move to a care home. Fortunately, moving to a care home is not the inevitable outcome of becoming old and frail as some would have you believe. There is another way…
Instead a domiciliary care worker can provide the help you need at home – from basic personal care and hygiene to managing medication or dealing with catheters and stomas. And if you need more specialist care or just more care then live-in care is an alternative option where a professional care comes to live with you in your own home to provide round-the-clock care.
Domiciliary care workers are fully trained in many aspects of care and provide regular assistance or they can also provide temporary help when someone is convalescing after illness or surgery, or needs help with rehabilitation after a life-changing event. They can provide certain medical support but also work in collaboration with district nurses and occupational therapists for more complex medical needs.
So Just What Does A Domiciliary Care Worker Do?
Below is a list of standard services offered by a domiciliary care worker, but all services can be tailored so if, for example, you have a pet then pet care could be included. Or, as already mentioned, if you have more complex medical needs these can also usually be accommodated, where necessary with the assistance of a healthcare professional. Services are also highly flexible to cope with changing needs:
- Personal care such as washing and dressing
- Help getting in and out of bed
- Help going to the toilet
- Continence care
- Managing medication
- Assistance keeping mobile around the home
- Household tasks
- Preparing balanced and nutritious meals
- Catheter management
- Stoma management
Care Be Right For You Or A Loved One?
Accepting that you need care is a difficult step for anyone to take because for so many of us have lived long independent lives not requiring us to be physically dependent on anyone else. Getting out of bed in the mornings, getting washed and dressed; preparing and eating breakfast. For years you may have done these simple actions on auto-pilot because they took so little effort. But as we age and become less able to look after ourselves some of these basic tasks start to seem like insurmountable problems.
People often know they need care well before they are prepared to openly admit it to others. And sometimes this is because they fear having to leave their own home for a residential care facility but it is important to understand that there are other choices – even if you have a serious medical condition it is possible to manage these for many people while they remain in their own home indefinitely.
With domiciliary care services you won’t need to struggle on unaided but neither will you have to move out of your own home. It’s not surprising then that this type of care service is becoming an increasingly popular option for older people who want to live at home but need help with anything from basic, everyday tasks through a wide variety of care needs including for people with Parkinson’s disease and the many forms of dementia.
If this sounds like you, or a family member, could benefit from domiciliary care services then the following checklist may help you decide to take the next step and arrange the help you need so you can stop worrying about the everyday tasks and start to enjoy an improved quality of life in your twilight years.
|Reasons You Might Need Domiciliary Care|
|Do you need help getting out of bed in the morning and back into bed at night?|
|Do you need someone to help you with your personal care and hygiene?|
|Are you unable to cope with household tasks such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning?|
|Do you need help or support around the home because you have become older and frailer?|
|Do you need help or support around the home due to the fact that you are recovering from an illness or injury?|
|Do you need someone to drive you to and from doctor appointments?|
|Do you need someone to help you manage your medication?|
|Do you have special dietary needs that you find difficult to manage?|
|Do you need help with rehabilitation at home before you can be discharged from hospital|
A Final Point
Don’t forget that the type of assistance provided by domiciliary carers can make a huge difference to other family members too. It can relieve the pressure of caregiving responsibilities on other people (especially partners and spouses who are also likely to be elderly). It can also provide comfort to family who cannot visit as often as they would like either because they live far away or have work and family commitments.