questions to ask a home care agency

How to choose a home care agency in 5 easy steps

We recognise what a big decision it is to choose someone to come and help you care for you in your home.

To help you make this decision, we have created a 5 step guide for you to follow which tells you how to choose a home care agency and the questions to ask a home care agency.

Step 1 – What care support do you need?

The first step is to think about what home care you want help with.  Care can come in many forms and is often undertaken by home help, care attendants, personal assistants and of course carers.  Typical areas that people want care support with include helping them with:

  • Their personal care and hygiene
  • Shopping or helping you with domestic duties, such as cleaning and tidying
  • Cooking and preparing regular meals
  • Companionship
  • Nursing and healthcare

As you retain control of how you use your carers, care in the home allows you to maintain a lot of flexibility.  Often the care will be provided through a care agency and they are able to help you in a number of ways.  For example they can:

  • Provide short term care (less than an hour) right through to care 24 hours a day
  • Provide cover for any other carer you have, such as a family member, and allow them to take a short break
  • Emergency care, if you have a specific need, for example, you are returning from a hospital stay

Step 2 – Request a care assessment

If you think that you need some care at home, you should contact the social services department and ask them for an assessment of your care and support requirements. Visit our page on care needs and financial assessment for more information

Once the local authority has assessed you, they will let you know if they can provide any help you need and how much financial support they can provide.  The alternative option would be for you to arrange your own care, which can still be funded by your local authority.  This is done through either what is called ‘direct payments’ or a ‘personal budget’. They are designed to give you control over how your care and support is provided.  They are also given to people with care needs and to carers.

Your local authority pays direct payments, or a personal budget, to you and you choose how you want to meet your care needs.  The approach that some take is to employ their own personal assistant or more commonly employ a care agency.

Here is a useful video that discusses how to choose a home care agency.

Step 3 – Calculate your care costs

The costs of care in the home are usually met through an hourly rate, which can vary between £10 – £20 per hour if you employ your own carer.  If you use an agency you will typically pay between £15-£25 per hour, although the costs differ depending on where you are in the country.

UK Care Guide have built a calculator to help you estimate how much it will cost you to receive care in the home.  You can use our calculator below to help you with your budgeting and think about how often you want support from a home care specialist.

It is also important that you think about how you are going to pay for your care.  We recommend that you visit our pages on paying for care, to help you understand which approach is likely to be most cost effective for you

Step 4 – Search for Home Care providers

Here at UK Care Guide we have built a comprehensive list of care in the home providers and home care agencies that operate in your local area. You can find the search box at the top of this page.

The agencies will provide you with your support through a trained team of care workers and specialists.  Also, all independent home care providers are regulated by the Care Qualities Commission, which means they have to reach minimum standards in such areas as training and record-keeping.   This should help give you comfort that you will be looked after by a caring and trained specialist.

Step 5 – Speak to the Home Care agency

Once you have had a look at the agencies that operate in your area, it would be advisable to short-list 2 or 3 for you and a friend or family member to speak too.

When you contact the agency they will often arrange to meet with you, so that you can both discuss your needs.  It also means that you can together agree how you spend your money and what the right type of care and support would be for you.

Questions to ask a home care agency

The questions you should ask the home care agency during the meeting can be split in to three key areas:

The home care agency – Questions to ask

  • Is there a standard contract that I need to sign?
  • Is there a minimum number of hours?
  • What is the hourly charge and how often is this reviewed?
  • Are there any other charges I have to meet, eg travel, VAT, national insurance, pension contributions?
  • Do I have to pay more if I need care in the evening, weekends or bank holidays?
  • How do I make my payments (cheque, direct debit, cash) and how regularly do I have to make these?
  • Do you have any insurance in case of damage to property by the carer?
  • Can you engage with the agency for a trial period to see how things work out?

The care worker – Questions to ask

  • Will you receive a regular carer and do they live nearby?
  • What training do the carers receive and how does the agency monitor their training needs?
  • Do the carers have any qualifications and does the agency support their carers in undertaking any qualifications?
  • How many other people does the carer look after?
  • What written records does the carer keep and will you be asked to sign a time sheet indicating when the carer came and how long they stayed?
  • Can details of any written records and timesheets be sent to a relative?

Your needs – Questions to ask

  • How does the agency determine who the right carer for you is? Do you have any particular religious or cultural requirements you want the care worker to be sensitive too?
  • How often will the agency speak to you about the suitability of the carer and whether they are meeting your needs?
  • Will the carers have direct access to my house?

People who can help you

We could all do with some help.  We have created a list of specialist’s that you can approach if you need some support.

A directory of advisors to help you work out how to pay for care

A directory of advisors to help you find out if the NHS should pay your care costs

Professionals to help you produce a Lasting Power of Attorney

Professionals to help you write a Will