Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Home Care Company

Friday, 26th February 2016

Senior Couple In Discussion With Health Visitor At Home

Awareness of care at home as an alternative to residential care homes is growing amongst older people and their families in the UK. Naturally therefore, when elderly people do begin to require support with their daily lives many more families are actively choosing to remain in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by the people and things they love, rather than being forced to move into residential care. At the same time, families are being given more choice and control than ever about the care and support they receive in later life, both if they are required to self-fund care themselves or they will receive support from their local authority.

Despite this, the process of choosing a home care service remains a huge challenge for many families. Often, people are either left to seek a care provider on their own without any prior experience of this, or they are given a long list of home care companies by a social worker with no way of determining which one is best placed to meet their individual needs. To help you get started, here are the top 10 tips for choosing a home care company for you or your loved ones.

1. Plan ahead and do your research

It is easier said than done but the reality is families are having to take more responsibility for making decisions regarding elderly care and there is no substitute for researching and planning ahead, rather than being forced to do this in times of crisis. Use the internet, ask your local authority social care team for a list of providers, speak with your GP, pharmacist or any other health professionals. You may even wish to arrange for low-level hourly home care at this early stage so that people can build trust and relationships before more care is needed.

2. Discuss care and support with your loved one

Fully involving the elderly person or couple who is to receive support is obviously paramount but all too often families don’t achieve this, despite having the best of intentions at heart. We are all much more likely to accept help when we feel in control. It is also helpful if you try to get an understanding of what amount and type of care is required – that may be anything from low-level hourly care through to 24-hour live-in care, maybe requiring specialist support for conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s or medication help.

3. Check ratings on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website

The CQC is the national regulatory body for health and social care and they inspect all home care companies annually and publish detailed reports on their website. This includes a rating of either Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate. Always read the provider’s CQC report.

4. Review the company’s accreditations, awards and their website

It is generally useful to have a look through their website to learn more about the company, if they specialise in elderly care and if they have achieved any other accreditations or awards for the service they deliver.

5. Speak with the Care Management team

Once you have researched the company, call the care management team directly and ask any questions you have. Check that they are informative, responsive, professional and genuinely interested to learn about the needs of you or your loved one. Also check how they will assess the needs of the client and establish a plan of care with your family.

6. What are the ongoing communication processes and is there 24/7 on-call support?

Confirm that there are ways in which the client or family can communicate effectively with the company and ensure that the support will continue to meet the needs of the client, which may of course change over time. There should be an on-call professional available 24/7 including evenings, holidays and weekends to respond to emergencies or changes.

7. Is there effective staff recruitment and training, including for specialist conditions such as dementia?

Find out how staff are screened, criminal record checked, recruited and if they are fully employed by the company – many providers simply act as an introductory agency rather than supporting and taking responsibility for their staff. Ask how staff are trained. Do they receive specialist training in medication management or conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s or stroke care? Do they receive an appropriate mix of theory and practical training? How are they assessed as competent before they begin work and going forwards? Do they receive regular support and supervision?

8. Are carers introduced and matched to clients?

Carers should be matched to clients not only according to care needs but also personality and interests. They should also be introduced to clients and the family before care commences and there should be means by which to express concern with a carer if required.

9. Does the company perform regular quality assurance checks?

Check that they have robust procedures in place to regularly monitor the quality of the service provided. Do they contact the client early-on to check the care is working? Are they happy to communicate with and work alongside the GP or other health professionals? Do they monitor key events and incidents and measure outcomes for the client? Do they regularly pop in to support staff and check the client is ok? Do they perform unannounced spot checks on their staff? How often are care plans reviewed and updated? Are satisfaction surveys sent out annually?

10. Meet with the Home Care Manager or Care Management team

Before any care is delivered an appropriately skilled person should come and fully assess the needs of your loved one in their home (or care setting if returning from hospital or a care home). You may even wish for them to pop out to meet with you before this assessment. Use these ‘no obligation’ meetings as an opportunity to discuss things further and get a better feel for them being the right team to support your family. If you do not feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to stop the process and take time to reconsider your options.

Published by Oliver Stirk who is a Director of Carefound Home Care (, a provider of highly personalised hourly home care and live-in care services in Yorkshire and one of the UK’s only home care providers rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) putting it in the top 1% nationally.