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01 / What is homecare?

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Homecare, otherwise known as domiciliary care, is when a paid care worker provides social care to a client who lives in their own home. Social care can include personal care (washing, dressing, toileting etc.), moving & handling (helping somebody move around, often making use of equipment), prompting or administering medication, housework, essential shopping, companionship and end of life care. Every client has unique needs and these are outlined in a care plan which is prepared alongside the client for homecare workers to follow.

The owner of the first homecare agency I worked for said that the job involves doing everything you do for yourself on a daily basis, just alongside your client, helping where necessary.

Alongside practical assistance, a core part of the homecare role involves professionally meeting the social and emotional needs of clients. This is easier said than done given the often tight time frames of visits, and there is real skill to maintaining a flow of conversation at the same time as undertaking all manner of tasks.

Homecare workers are usually employed by private, for-profit homecare agencies whose clients either pay for their own care in full or have their care part / fully-funded by their local authority. The homecare agency provides essential training to homecare workers and coordinates their visits to clients.

Most of the time, homecare workers work alone, except for when a client's needs require two care workers to be present, which is known as a double-up visit.

Usually, a homecare shift consists of visiting a set 'run' of clients, driving from one to the next. Homecare workers are typically only paid for the time they spend face-to-face with clients and not for the windows of time spent travelling between visits, or for any extra time they spend with clients in addition to what has been scheduled.

Mornings and evenings are the times of day when the majority of care visits are needed, as many clients require support getting ready for the day and ready for bed. Lunch and tea visits are common for clients who cannot prepare food independently, or require assistance with personal care throughout the day.

A typical working day for a full-time home care worker therefore begins at 7am and does not finish until 10pm; often starting at 7am again the next day. Whilst there are usually gaps in the middle of the day, such a working pattern makes for unsociable working hours. Care is needed seven days a week, meaning home care workers must work weekends, too. There is some variation in how homecare agencies organise weekend work, but it is often the case that employees must be available to work every other weekend.

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