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Your Guide to Home Care Services for UK Seniors

6 minute read

By Lesley Harrison

It’s common for people to find themselves struggling with certain day-to-day tasks as they get older. Illness, reduced mobility, or cognitive decline can make household chores and personal care more difficult than they are for a younger person. Some seniors have friends or family they can turn to for support, but this isn’t always the case, and even those who do have support may find external assistance useful to give their caregivers some respite. Fortunately, there are several options for older adults living in the UK who need help with cooking, cleaning or personal care tasks. Many services are heavily subsidised to make them accessible to people on a lower income.

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What Help Is Available for UK Seniors Living at Home

Seniors who are struggling with day-to-day tasks have the option of moving into a care home or receiving help in their own homes. This kind of help is called home care, or domiciliary care. There are many private services that offer care for seniors, with fees averaging around £20 per hour. Local councils will often provide home care services in the form of help with personal care, medication management and ambulation. Home help services, such as support with household chores, however, aren’t usually offered by councils. Seniors may be able to request home modifications and accessibility aids to help them remain independent.1

What Support Do Home Care Agencies Offer?

The support provided by home care agencies will vary depending on the agency and the needs of the senior. Some of the services provided include:

In addition to these services, seniors may be able to receive other in-home assistance, such as meals on wheels or regular visits and wellness checkups, to help combat social isolation.

How Can Seniors Apply for In-Home Help?

If a senior is hoping to receive in-home help that’s partly funded by their local council, they’ll need to apply for a needs assessment.2 These assessments are performed by a social worker representing the local council, who will interview the senior and ask them how they cope with day-to-day tasks, such as cooking, housework, dressing and bathing.3 The social worker will then recommend support options for the senior. That support could be in the form of home modifications, assistive devices, or home care services. There may be a nominal fee for home care services, but fees charged by the council should be much lower than those charged by private services.

Do Seniors Have to Pay for Their Own Care?

Seniors in the UK may be eligible for free home care services if they’re on a low income and have limited assets. Each council can set its own pricing for home care, as well as the thresholds for any means-tested discounts. Seniors have the option of allowing the council to arrange care services for them or working with providers themselves. If a senior has had a needs assessment, and it was determined that home care support isn’t necessary, they’ll need to arrange any care through a private provider and pay for it themselves in full.

What Financial Support Is Available?

There are several benefits available for seniors living in the UK. Some of these benefits are means-tested, while others are offered to anyone who can demonstrate medical need. Those benefits include:

Seniors who aren’t sure what support they’re eligible for can contact the Pension Service for advice.4

Can Seniors Arrange Their Own Care?

It’s possible for seniors to arrange their own care. Some local authorities have arrangements where seniors can choose their care providers and have their care fees contributed to by the council, but this option isn’t available in all areas. Seniors who have a private pension or other income high enough to make them ineligible to receive free or subsidised care may prefer to work with a private provider. This can help them avoid council administrative fees, and they’ll have more control over the type of care they receive and the schedule.

What About Basic Housekeeping Support?

Most local authorities don’t offer home help services. However, there are several charities that offer such services:

The charities listed above operate nationally. There are many other regional or local organisations that may be able to assist seniors who need help with housekeeping. Contact your local council to ask for information about organisations operating in your area.

Where Can Older Adults Go for General Assistance?

Support is available for older adults who find the thought of arranging care or applying for financial support intimidating. The EntitledTo website features an easy-to-use tool that helps people understand the benefits and assistance they might qualify for.8 The National Health Service offers a list of help and support that people can get for free and can signpost people to private providers in their area.9 Seniors should also consider contacting their local council or a charity, such as Age UK, for advice about practical help that’s available in the local area.

What Should I Do if I’m Worried About a Loved One?

If you are worried about a parent or grandparent who is struggling to take care of themselves, consider having a conversation with them about the care options that are available to them. It’s sometimes difficult for seniors to accept that they need help with day-to-day tasks, but it’s important to address the issue, so they can stay healthy, and you can reduce the risk of them suffering an accident or injury. If you’re currently filling the carer role for a loved one and are struggling to cope with the workload, contact your local council to ask if respite care services are available.

What If At-Home Support Isn’t Enough?

Seniors who need round-the-clock support or medical attention may find it more practical to move into a care home, rather than having a carer visit them a few times a week. While it’s possible to request a live-in carer, this type of care is usually much more expensive than care delivered in a senior living facility. Residential care homes typically cost around £600 per week. Low-income seniors may be eligible for financial support from their local council. To qualify for this support, they’ll need to have had a needs assessment from a social worker.10

Can You Get Help for Short Time Periods?

It’s common for people to require a little extra support if they’ve recently been discharged from the hospital and are not yet fully recovered. If you’re worried that you or someone you care for might need some extra assistance after an operation or following a stay in a hospital for some other reason, ask your doctor or nurse about this before you’re discharged. The hospital will connect you with a local charity that may offer transportation services, personal care and wellness visits to help you get back on your feet. This care is offered on a short-term basis, with follow-up visits for a few days or weeks. If you need more help after this, the charity will offer suggestions for other organisations that can offer ongoing support.

Have the Long-Term Care Conversation Early

Whether you’re a senior who is planning ahead or someone who is worried about a parent or grandparent, it’s a good idea to start discussing care arrangements long before they’re needed. Some seniors may already have peers living in care homes, and they may be quite happy with the thought of joining them. Others may have strong emotional ties to their family home and prefer to go to great lengths to stay there. By expressing your wishes and discussing the options available in your area, you can work toward making the best choice for your family.

Lesley Harrison