A care home may not be the right fit for everyone, and that’s okay. If you think you’d feel more comfortable getting care in your own home, you may want to consider hiring a live-in carer.

However, as with any type of care, there’s a lot to think about – is live-in care right for your care needs? How does live-in care work day-to-day? And, what’s it really like inviting someone new into your home?

In this article, Elder share the ins and outs of live-in care so that you can make an informed decision, and know what to expect if you choose care at home.

What is live-in care?

Live-in care involves a dedicated, full-time, carer moving into the home to support with things such as getting washed and dressed, staying active, and keeping up with their hobbies.

They can help with tasks around the home too, such as light housework, cooking your favourite meals, and running errands – such as picking up prescriptions or groceries.

The aim of live-in care is to ensure you stay as independent as possible. It’s also a cost-effective alternative to some traditional care options.

What are the benefits of live-in care?

When we get older, a lot of the information around what to do when you need a little extra help is geared towards moving into a care home.

Sometimes though, the idea of moving into residential care can cause worry. After all, your home is a big part of who you are – it’s where where you store your memories, as well as where you keep your things.

Some people may not feel ready for residential care, or think that moving into care home will mean they’ll no longer be able to live their own life, on their own terms. Live-in care can be a great alternative.

Benefits can include:

  • Maintaining your independence and freedom
  • The comfort and security of living in familiar surroundings
  • Avoiding the potential stress of selling a family home
  • Remaining in the local community among friends and neighbours
  • Being able to keep pets
  • Complete continuity of care, even 24 hours-a-day
  • Companionship
  • Friends and family being able to visit at any time

Who is live-in care best suited to?

There are many frequently asked questions around live-in care and a key one is: is live-in care suitable for me? The answer, is that it is suitable for many different people with different care needs, including those currently receiving hourly care or dementia care for example.

Those currently receiving domiciliary care

It may be that you’ve been having daily visits from a carer, but these visits no longer offer the right level of support. For example, if you’re becoming a little unsteady on your feet, having someone in the house 24/7 can be a comfort. Or, if you need more help with washing and personal care, you may be more comfortable being supported by the same carer, which isn’t always possible with visiting care as carers may be rotated on different shifts.

Live-in care is different – providing round-the-clock support with carers often working on a ‘four weeks on, one week off’, basis.

Those living with dementia

Many people living with dementia can become anxious and confused by change, particularly when it comes to the world around them. Getting care at home can control these changes – for example, the layout of their home environment can stay the same, and the number of people coming and going can be controlled.

On the other hand, if something does suddenly cause upset, minor adaptations to the home can be made without impacting or confusing other residents. For example, if someone living with dementia suddenly becomes distressed by being unable to recognise themselves in a mirror, it’s far easier to remove mirrors if they’re getting care in their own home.

Live-in care can help protect precious routines and social networks, which is increasingly linked with slowing the rate of cognitive decline and depression.

Those looking for a bit of help and companionship

As we age, our social networks may not be as strong, meaning television, radio, and pets can easily become our main source of company. If you’re a bit unsteady on your feet, and can’t drive, you may not feel able to get out and about as much as you’d like to see friends either.

Companionship care is essentially the same service as live-in care, However, it tends to focus less on personal tasks, such as help with hygiene. A live-in carer is able to provide company for everyday tasks that most of us may take for granted, such as eating meals together. They can also help with things like technology and transportation – to help you stay connected with friends and family.

Couples that want to stay together

It can be a huge, life-changing moment to have a partner move into residential care. Couples with different care needs often find that the best and most cost-effective way for them to stay together is to opt for care within their own four walls. It can provide much-needed support and respite to a spouse who has minimal care needs too – providing an extra pair of hands to help with things like housekeeping, cooking, and running errands.

Those being discharged from the hospital

If you’re being discharged from the hospital, you may need some temporary support at home while you get back on your feet. Some live-in carers are specialists in rehabilitation and can help with the delivery of your treatment plan – prompting you to take any prescribed medication, helping you keep any wound sites clean, encouraging gentle movement, and getting you to future appointments safely.

What’s it like having a live-in carer?

Welcoming someone new into your home can feel strange at first, and it’ll probably feel a bit strange for your carer during the first few days too, as they get to know you, your routine, and your local area. However, they’ll always take your lead, especially if you need some time to adjust, or prefer and are able to do certain things on your own.

A big part of getting comfortable with the live-in care arrangement is ensuring your carer has a space in your home that’s theirs while they’re staying with you. This means providing them with a clean and private bedroom room, with some storage for clothes and personal possessions, and fresh sheets and towels when they first arrive.

It’s also really important to share your hobbies, interests, likes, and dislikes with your live-in care provider. This will help them look for a carer with a similar personality or experiences, and who can become a friend in the long run.

How much does a live-in carer cost in the UK?

Is live-in care cheaper than a care home?

The cost of a care home varies widely across the UK, meaning you could expect to pay anything from £850 to £1700 a week. For example in the North West of England, a care home may be a little cheaper than live-in care. However, in other regions such as the South East, live-in care is often cheaper, or at least comparable to the cost of a residential care home.

Many people feel that live-in care can offer better value for money too. In residential care you often pay a service charge that covers the cost of common areas and services, whether you use them frequently or not. Some activities may not be all inclusive either, such as exercise sessions or certain dining options. With live-in care, the support you get is personalised to you, so you’ll only pay for what you need.

Will the local authority pay for live-in care?

You may be eligible for full or partial care funding from your local council.

To start this process, you’ll need to ask your local authority for a Care Needs Assessment, which involves an assessor asking you about your day-to-day life and how you cope with certain things.

Before starting your assessment, it’s worth getting familiar with the 2014 Care Act, which spells out all the eligibility criteria, as well as the assessment process all local authorities have to follow.

If you’re found to have qualifying needs for funding support, you’ll then need to pass a financial assessment, to work out how much funding you’re entitled too. The council will begin to pay for your care needs when you have less than £23,250 in assets or savings.

However, it’s worth remembering that if you choose to receive care in your own home, the value of your home won’t be included in the assessment.

How do I find a live-in carer?

You may choose to advertise and hire a carer privately, using websites such as Gumtree or Nextdoor. If you do choose to go it alone, bear in mind you’ll need to do your own background checks, register as an employer with HMRC, and handle payroll responsibilities. You’ll also need to consider who will provide cover when your carer takes a break.

The other option is managed live-in care. If you use a live-in care provider, they will handle all of the above for you. When choosing a care service, be sure to ask how they screen and choose carers. DBS or PVG checks should always be carried out to prove that each carer is safe, and providers should also ensure that the carer is legally entitled to work in the UK.

To arrange live-in care, you can search for managed live-in care agencies. If you have specific care needs, be sure to ask the care provider how they’ll meet them. You may also want to know how they match carers to customers, and if you can meet suitable carers beforehand.

It’s also important to check more practical things too, such if there are any changes you need to make to your home ready for live-in care, and what you should expect during the first few days.

Ian’s Story

When his Dad’s health started to deteriorate, Elder customer Ian needed more than the hourly care visits that were in place. His Mum and Dad really weren’t sure at first, but they really wanted to stay at home, so they decided to try a live-in carer.

“It can be hard to find the perfect person, on both sides, but we have now found (our current carer) Donika. She fitted in very quickly! She goes the extra mile, and she will rush to help my mother before she’s even asked, even in the middle of the night.

She knew how to play dominoes and, after watching me and Dad, she played with him as well and especially when I was not there.

My parents are both hard of hearing, so communication was always going to be very important. Donika is from Albania but she has lived in Glasgow for many years, and her daughters were raised here. She speaks loudly and clearly, and she knows to say the right things at the right times, so we all understand her. Having lived in Scotland for many years, there is a strong cultural bond.”