Getting Help at Home
What to do if you need a bit more care at home? you can always ask for help. The Leading Care Company knows that we all need sometimes help, to worry less about everything that needs to be done.
Information and advice you need to help you love later life. We’re Age UK and our goal is to enable older people to love later life.
We are passionate about affirming that your later years can be fulfilling years. Whether you’re enjoying your later life or going through tough times, we’re here to help you make the best of your life.
This information guide has been prepared by The Leading Care Company and contains general advice only, it should not be relied on as a basis for any decision or action and cannot be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The Leading Care Company Neither nor any companies mentioned in this article accepts any liability arising from its use and it is the reader’s sole responsibility to ensure any information is up to date and accurate.
This article about Getting Help at Home cover the following
- What this guide is about
- A little extra help at home
- Helpful equipment at home 8 Home adaptations
- Using technology to make you safer
- Extra money if you’re disabled
- Having a care assessment from social services
- Different ways to arrange and pay for your care services
- If you’re charged for services
- Arranging your own care and support
- What if I need more help at home?
- What should I do if I’m not happy with the care I’m receiving?
- Useful organizations
What this article is about?
Have you begun to feel recently that you could do with a little extra help around the house – perhaps with the housework or gardening, or doing the shopping?
Or maybe you’re finding it a bit more of a struggle to get around your home? If activities, like getting in and out of the bath or up and down the stairs, are more difficult than in the past, now’s the time to explore what help you can get at home.
It can be hard to admit we struggle with everyday tasks, but getting extra help allows you to live safely and independently at home for longer. There are lots of ways you can get help at home – from hiring a cleaner and making alterations and adaptations to your home through to getting a care assessment from your local council and employing a carer. There may be financial assistance available, through benefits, grants or the local authority. This guide gives you an overview of the range of help available, how to access it and different ways to pay for it.
As far as possible, the information given in this guide is applicable across England, Berkshire, and Slough.
A little extra help at home
Sometimes just a little help with the housework or gardening can let us enjoy living at home without worrying about how we’ll get everything done.
Help with cleaning
If you could do with some help with cleaning start by making a list of what you’d like a cleaner to do and how many hours you can afford to pay for one. As charges will vary, you could ask around to find out the average wages for cleaners in your area. To find someone you can trust, you could:
- ask your neighbors or local friends for a recommendation
- ask your local Age UK if they provide a cleaning service or have a list of cleaners
- contact your local council to see if they have a list of approved cleaning agencies.
If you’d like help with your washing and ironing, see if your cleaner can do this. Or ask your dry cleaners if they have a delivery service or special rates for older people. Some people offer ironing services and may be able to pick up your ironing and deliver it back to you.
Help with DIY and gardening
Keeping your garden well maintained can lift your spirits and give you an outdoor space to enjoy. Ask your local Age UK if they offer or know of any gardening services. Or contact Thrive, a charity that helps people with a disability to carry on gardening with helpful tips and specially adapted tools.
Help getting out and about
If getting out to the shops is tricky, see if a volunteer from your local Age UK or the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) can accompany you or even do your shopping for you. You can order shopping online from most supermarkets and have it delivered for a small fee: this is particularly useful if you need heavy things. Perhaps a relative or friend could order your shopping for you if you’re not confident using a computer. And if you’d like to get online, why not contact your local Age UK or UK Online Centre to see if it runs a computer course?
There may be a local community transport service such as Dial-a-Ride. This is a free door-to-door minibus service for people who can’t use public transport. Drivers are trained to help people who have mobility problems. You’ll be sharing the minibus with others who may be dropped off at destinations along the way, so your journey is likely to take longer than if you were traveling alone.
Ask your local council if they offer this service or visit www.gov.uk/community-transport-services-shopmobility. You could also contact your local Age UK to find out about other transport schemes which may be available in your area.
Help with cooking
If you’re finding it difficult to cook, perhaps because you’re recovering from illness, you could order ready meals from supermarkets or try one of the specialist companies that provide frozen or chilled meals ready for you to heat up.
You can ring these companies for a catalog and many have websites with detailed menu and dietary options. There may also be local lunch clubs – ask your local Age UK or local council for details. Or you may be eligible for meals on wheels for a small charge if your needs are high enough. Contact your local council for an assessment.
Help to look after yourself
Many older people find it hard to cut their toenails. Your local Age UK may offer a nail-cutting service or recommend someone who can do this in your area. If you have a longterm condition, such as diabetes or arthritis, your feet are particularly vulnerable. Check your feet regularly and ensure you attend any checkups as requested. If you notice any problems, report them to your GP as soon as possible. They may refer you to an NHS chiropodist if you need to see one.
You could see a private chiropodist, but this will cost more than an NHS one. Contact the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to find someone nearby.
If washing your hair is getting difficult – perhaps because of arthritis – see if a local hairdresser can visit your home to wash and set it.
Helpful equipment at home
Sometimes all you need to manage better at home are a few useful bits of equipment. These needn’t be expensive or cumbersome. For example:
- In the kitchen, kettle tippers, wide-handled cutlery, and spike boards to allow one-handed vegetable peeling can help if you find it hard to grip or carry.
- Microwaves can make it very quick and easy to cook or heat up food, and they reduce washing-up.
- Raisers can be fitted to beds or chairs to increase their height, making it easier to get in and out.
- Long-handled shoehorns and gadgets to help with putting on socks or doing up buttons can help you get dressed.
- Telephones with large buttons, talking clocks or watches, or raised markings for appliance controls can help if you have sight problems.
- Flashing doorbells and smoke alarms can be vital if you have any hearing loss.
- If you have memory problems, a digital memo reminder can prompt you about your daily tasks, or a calendar clock can show you the day, date and time if you tend to forget: the calendar and reminder options on mobile phones can be useful too.
- If you find it difficult to answer the front door, consider using a key safe: this is a secure box outside your home where you can leave door keys. It has an access code you can give to trusted relatives, home carers or health professionals who need to come in. Only use police approved key safe and get it properly installed.
You can buy a lot of these items on the high street or contact the Disabled Living Foundation to find out about suppliers. You can also visit their Ask Sara website at www.asksara.org.uk for a self-help guide to discover which items might help you. Some items can be expensive, so always seek advice before buying them. You need to make sure they’re right for you and that you’re not being overcharged.
Ask your local council for a free care assessment. Councils have to provide this for you, regardless of your income and savings. You may find you’re eligible for free equipment. Even if you’re not eligible for help with the costs, the council should be able to provide advice on what equipment would help you. Or you could get an assessment from a social service or private occupational therapist: they help people identify ways to stay living independently. Contact the College of Occupational Therapists for a list of private practitioners.
Sometimes adaptations to your home can help you live independently and safely. It isn’t always necessary to make big changes – a grab rail at the front door to help you step inside or a door-entry intercom if it’s difficult to answer the front door may be all you need, for example.
It’s also possible to make more substantial changes, such as fitting your home with a stairlift and accessible shower. If you rent your home, ask your landlord before making any permanent changes.
Start by contacting your local social services department. Someone will assess your needs to see if you’re eligible for help. If you are eligible, you could qualify for the following:
- in England, specialist equipment and adaptations you need for daily living that cost less than £1,000 – for example a raised toilet seat, a grab rail, or a ramp – which are provided free of charge
If social services recommend that you need an adaptation that costs more than £1,000, you may be able to get a Disabled Facilities Grant to help with the cost. See our free factsheet Funding for home improvements to find out more.
Equity release is a way for older homeowners to release money from their homes to help fund adaptations. However, this is a big decision and you are strongly advised to consider all your options before deciding on this. For more information, see our free guide Equity release.
Using technology to make you safer
Telecare services use simple technology to support your wellbeing and help you stay living independently at home for longer. They can offer you and your family and friends reassurance and peace of mind that you’re safe, while still maintaining your privacy and independence.
Telecare offers support in a variety of ways. The best-known example of telecare is personal alarms, which allow you to call for help if you’re unwell or have a fall and can’t reach a telephone. You press a button on a pendant you wear around your neck or as a wristband. This will connect you to a call center where you can talk to someone who will summon help if necessary.
Other examples of telecare include:
- sensors that automatically detect if you’ve fallen and raised an alert
- fire alarms that flash or vibrate
- plug-in hall lights that turn on when they detect movement, or at a certain time
- gas detectors that can raise an alarm and even shut the gas off completely if it’s been left on
- devices that can detect if you’ve had a seizure
- special plugs for the bath and sink that allow the water to only reach a certain level
- movement sensors that can turn on lights when you get out of bed
- door sensors that detect if someone has left the house alone or left and not returned within a certain time. These can be useful for people with dementia.
Telecare could help you if you live on your own, or with someone who is unwell or disabled. Perhaps you’ve had a fall and want to be able to call for help if it happens again. Or maybe you’ve come out of the hospital and want a little extra support while you’re recovering.
Depending on your finances, you may have to pay something towards the cost of telecare. Once social services have carried out a care assessment, they will assess your income and savings to see whether you need to contribute. See page 20 to find out more. If you want to buy telecare products privately, contact the Disabled Living Foundation for advice. Ask about their loan library where you can borrow items to see how you get on with them. Or visit our webpages on telecare (www.ageuk.org.uk/telecare) which list things to consider when buying it.
Extra money if you’re disabled
If you have a long-term illness or disability and need help with the personal care you may be able to claim Attendance Allowance. You can use it to pay for anything – it doesn’t have to be spent on care or carers.
You can claim Attendance Allowance if you:
- are 65 or over
- could benefit from help with personal care, such as getting washed or dressed, or supervision to keep you safe. You don’t have to actually be getting this help – Attendance Allowance is based on the help you need, not the help you actually get
- have any type of disability or illness, including sight or hearing impairments, or an illness such as dementia
- have needed help for at least six months (there are special rules if you’re terminally ill).
If you’re under 65, you will need to apply for Personal Independence Payment instead. See our free factsheet Personal Independence Payment.
Having a care assessment from social services
Personal care covers any care to do with looking after yourself – getting dressed, washing, eating and drinking, getting around or needing someone to watch over you to keep you safe, for example, if you’re unsteady on your feet or can’t see or hear very well.
If you need help with personal care, contact the social services department of your local council. Explain you need some help and ask for a care assessment (also known as a needs assessment). Sometimes your GP or hospital discharge team may refer you for an assessment but you can request one yourself as well. It’s free and you can get one regardless of your income or savings. Ask how long you’ll wait for your assessment and tell them if you need help urgently.
Step one: your care assessment
There are various ways a social care professional could assess you, but generally, they will come to your home to talk to you about how you’re managing everyday tasks and what you would like to achieve in your day-to-day life. They will look at:
- your health, disabilities and what you can and can’t do, or struggle to do
your current living arrangements
- what help you’re currently getting, if any, and whether this can continue. For example, it may be that friends and family are helping you now but can’t continue long-term
- how you would like to be supported
- any concerns your carer has if you have one.
The assessor should not only consider your physical safety but also the emotional and social side of your life. If necessary, they should contact any other health and social care professionals who need to be involved in your assessment and care. If you have a carer, they should be involved and should be assessed for their needs.
The assessor will consider the type of help you need to support you, and whether your needs are great enough for the council to help you or if they should direct you to other sources of help. Assessors should consider not only what support you need right now, but also what support would prevent you from needing more significant help in the future.
You can prepare for your assessment by thinking about the kind of help you need. Be specific, for example, ‘I need someone to help me get up and dressed in the mornings’, ‘I need help to shower regularly’ or ‘I need to be reminded to take my medication’. Think about your cultural, social, religious and emotional needs too, for example, ‘I want to go to my place of worship once a week’ or ‘I want to visit my brother twice a month’.
Step two: your care plan
The support your council provides could include:
- adaptations or equipment to make your home safer or easier to live in
- help from home carers or a personal assistant
- daycare in a day center.
After the assessment, a care plan (sometimes called a support plan) should be agreed on and you should get a copy. The care plan will be helpful even if you’re arranging your own care or help privately, as it will show you what your needs are and what support could help you, including help outside social care.
Step three: the financial assessment
If the care assessment shows that you qualify for support, you will have a financial assessment to see whether you will contribute towards the cost of support. This will look at your income and savings, including pensions and benefits.
When deciding how much to charge you, the council must work out what you can afford to pay so you’re left with a reasonable level of income.
Step four: deciding what care services you get, and how they’ll be arranged
How much financial help you’ll get from the council can depend on local costs for services.
If the council will pay for all or some of your care costs, you have two options:
- The council can arrange care services for you.
- The council can give you a direct payment, which is a cash payment you can use to pay for a carer or any other services that help you meet your needs.
Different ways to arrange and pay for your care services
If the council decides you’re eligible for help or care, you may be happy for them to provide their own services for you, for example, to arrange carers to help you. In many ways, this is the easiest way to get help. But if you want more choice and control, there are other options.
In England, the council will provide you with a personal budget. This is a budget for how much it will cost to arrange and pay for your care and support. The amount of money depends on your needs. There are different ways you can manage this money.
- You can get the council to manage it for you. They will spend the money on the services you choose.
- You can receive the money in your personal budget, and spend it on any services that meet your needs as set down in your care plan. This is called a direct payment.
Direct payments allow you to be creative and flexible. You could use yours to choose your own carers to come in and help you, people you feel comfortable with and who could visit you regularly, rather than having different carers each time.
Or you might want to pay someone to help you go shopping, or to take you to a restaurant or pub for lunch, for example. If you have a place of worship, or you want to do a course, you can use the money you’ve been allocated to get you there, too.
However, direct payments can involve more work for you, as you may have to take on the duties of an employer. You can get support with this from your local council. You can also nominate someone to receive and manage the money for you if you don’t feel able to manage it yourself. See our free factsheet Personal budgets and direct payments in adult social care to find out more.
If you’re charged for services
If you’ve had a financial assessment and the council has decided you have to pay towards services, it must make sure you’re left with a reasonable level of income. Check your local council’s website for their charging information.
Arranging your own care and support
If you’re paying for care – either privately or through direct payments -there are a number of ways you can find care or support at home.
Home care agencies
A home care agency can provide carers who will come in to support you to live independently at home. Carers can help you with bathing, getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, preparing a meal or collecting medication, for example. The duration and number of visits you arrange will depend on your needs – anything from half an hour a week to several hours a day, or even live-in care.
There are a number of ways to find a local home care agency.
- Ask your local council for recommendations. They must give you information and advice even if they aren’t providing other services for you.
- Contact the UK Home Care Association for details of home care agencies that follow its code of practice. It produces a useful leaflet called Choosing care at home.
- Contact the Care Quality Commission, the national regulator for care services, for a list of agencies and its inspection reports. In Slough, you can visit their website
- Search online or check your phone book for local agencies.
- Ask friends, relatives or neighbors if they’ve had good or bad experiences with local agencies. Remember that while a personal recommendation is a good starting point, agencies can change and what suits one person may not suit another.
Ask the agencies to send you a brochure and their price list or look for one on their website. Customer reviews can be useful, but you should always contact the agencies you like to see if they’re right for you. You may want to ask:
- whether they have cared for anyone with similar needs to yours
- what training their care workers receive
- whether the agency ensures that all staff have been checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS): this is a check on someone’s criminal records, formerly called a CRB check
- what happens if a regular care worker is off sick or on holiday
- how to contact the agency in an emergency
- whether they charge extra for evenings or weekends
- how to make a complaint.
There may be other questions you would like to ask. Think about what’s important to you.
Once you’ve chosen an agency, they will carry out their own care assessment to find out what help you need. They should produce a care plan showing their arrival times, what they’ll do, how long they’ll stay and any other relevant information. This should be reviewed every year or more often if your needs change.
Employing someone directly
Instead of using an agency, you may prefer to employ someone directly to help you. If you do this you’ll need to deal with tax, National Insurance and pension issues for them. Skills for Care has a number of useful resources about employing someone directly (visit www. employingpersonalassistants.co.uk). You’ll need to make sure you’re insured in case your carer has an accident, and that they’ve had a DBS-check. The DBS can tell you how to go about this.
You can’t generally use direct payments to employ a partner or relative who lives with you. However, in certain circumstances – for example, if there is a language barrier or religious reasons – you may be able to employ them if the council agrees. Think carefully about how employing a partner or relative could affect your family relationships, and check whether becoming a paid carer will affect their eligibility for benefits.
How much will it cost?
Home care costs can vary widely depending on where you live, the sort of care you need, how many hours of care you need, and what times of the day and week you need it.
Even if the council isn’t paying for your care, they should tell you how much they’d expect to spend on your care needs. This can give you an idea of what you should be paying to a private carer or agency.
What if I need more help at home?
As time passes, you may feel you need more support to help you manage at home. Start by asking your council to review your needs to see whether they can provide any other services, or whether you’re now eligible for support which you haven’t had in the past. If you’re employing your own carers, see if you can afford to employ them for a few extra hours. Talk to the agency (if you’re using one) to see what they can offer.
There may come a time when your current home is no longer suitable, even with care, support or adaptations. There are several options you could consider, such as downsizing to a more manageable property, moving in with family, moving into sheltered housing or moving into a care home. Although most of us don’t want to think about leaving our home, it’s a good idea to consider your options and discuss them with friends and family in advance. You can then be sure that you’ve made your wishes known and thought about what’s best for you. Our free guides Housing options and Care homes have more information about your options.
What should I do if I’m not happy with the care I’m receiving?
It’s vital that you’re comfortable with the care you’re receiving and confident that it’s right for you. If you’re unhappy with your care, first try to resolve it by having an informal conversation with the council or care agency providing it. If that doesn’t work, ask for a copy of the council or agency’s complaints procedure.
If someone lacks the capacity to make decisions or express their needs, for example, if they have dementia, there are strict safeguards known as ‘best interest principles’ to protect them. These simply mean that reasonable attempts must be made to find out the person’s opinions. For instance, someone with dementia may be more lucid and find it easier to communicate in the mornings, so should be asked about their wishes then.