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Nobody likes to admit they can’t cope. For some, it’s an admission of defeat while for others it’s a sign they are getting older. But let’s put these feelings aside for now and take an honest look at care at home and what it could mean for you.

What’s your experience of care at home?

You may have a family member who has needed care at home and experienced it first-hand. Maybe you’ve only heard about it from others. One thing is for certain, information is not always easy to find and the options can be bewildering.

Even the phrase ‘care at home’ can be a little misleading. The reason you need support is often that you want some help with your daily activities. It’s not that you are helpless. You simply need some extra support to help you remain in your own home.

Understand the kind of support you need

Sounds obvious but once you start talking to care providers you can quickly lose sight of what you actually need. Have a discussion with family or friends. Consult with health professionals if necessary. Draw up a list of requirements that will help you at home.

Start by thinking think about the daily tasks you carry out. The list will include anything from housekeeping, personal care, medication and shopping. Maybe there is room on your list for companionship, often overlooked but human contact might be in short supply. All of these are important aspects of living at home.

Be honest with yourself and think about the worst day you are likely to have. It will define the level of support you need the frequency of visits. Most important, it will narrow down the agencies you will want to talk to.

Nursing care versus general help at home

If you have an on-going medical condition you may need more specialist nursing support. Mobility might be a challenge which means you need help with bedtime routines. This is called nursing care and not every agency will offer this. Visits tend to be more frequent and can often require two carers.

Providing general help for those who are more independent will mean you don’t need nursing care. The sort of activities will include daily tasks such as washing, ironing, making the beds, shopping or meal preparation. You don’t always need someone every day but that is something you can decide. It could just be once or twice a week.

Companionship is the same for any type of care you are receiving. Having someone who comes into your house on a regular basis will put your mind at rest. Safe in the knowledge that if you do have a problem there will be someone there to help sort it out.

Defining a care plan for your needs

Most care agencies will start with understanding what support you require. This is captured within a care plan and will be a key document for any carers who visit your home. It will detail the tasks they need to carry out and in some instances your preferences.

Ideally, you want the same carers each time. People who you become familiar with and look forward to visiting you. This isn’t always possible. But if you find you are seeing lots of different carers over a short period of time then you might need to look for another agency.

The frequency of visits is another factor. How often you need the carers to come in and help you. It could be at the start and end of the day, perhaps to coincide with taking medication. Alternatively, you may only need a couple of visits a week to help you cope.

Finding the right agency for you

Probably the most important element once you have defined what you need. Word of mouth is a very powerful recommendation. If you know someone who is already benefiting from care at home talk to them. Find out how they are getting on and their experiences.

The Care Quality Commission is an independent regulator in the care sector. They will assess and rate a wide range of care agencies. All you need to do is search on their website using your postcode to find agencies near you. It will also give you information on the ratings they have achieved against the care they provide.

Draw up a shortlist of agencies. The next step will be the best use of your time. Meet with the agencies and talk about your requirements. You need to feel comfortable with the individuals and the service they are offering. At this stage ask lots of questions and depending on the answers you receive you will know who is best for you.

What happens when you need more than care at home?

The majority of agencies will offer care in your own home. That is their focus and how they will manage their resources. If you need to move into a care home the services of these agencies will finish. Your care will be taken over by the residential care home.

Age Care Advice takes a different approach. We are all about looking after your health and welfare from the minute you become a client until you no longer want our help. But our responsibilities don’t end if you enter a care home. We will still work for you. Visit you in your new home to see you are getting the right level of care, even help you apply for any funding you may be eligible for.

Inviting people into your home is always a very personal experience. It’s your castle, so to speak, and everything in it is precious to you. Which is why you need to do your homework before engaging a care agency. You want to feel safe and comfortable.

There are always more questions than answers when it comes to looking at care provision. This is why a new community forum has been set-up on Facebook. It’s a new initiative but there to help people like you to ask all the questions you want and have them answered by people who have been on a similar journey. Why not drop in and see what you think?

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